Child Custody

The magic words in North Carolina in child custody trials are "best interest of the child." It is part of the Mission Statement of this Firm to protect the best interests of the children. It is generally best for children if parents agree on a custodial schedule through negotiation and mediation. If no agreement can be reached, after hearing all the evidence, a judge must decide which spouse will make the major decisions affecting the child's life and will provide the child's day-to-day residential supervision. Except in unusual circumstances, the noncustodial spouse will receive substantial visitation privileges with the child. Rarely is a noncustodial spouse given less than alternate weekends, one-half of the school holidays and several weeks in the summer. There is no presumptive visitation schedule, and the court welcomes mutually agreeable visitation settlements.

If you file with the court for custody in Greensboro or any other court in North Carolina, you are going to have to go to court ordered mediation with the court’s mediator to discuss how to settle your case in the best interests of the children. You probably are going to have to go to parenting classes as well. See the reference to the Family Life Council at the end of this section.

There is a growing trend in North Carolina for shared residential parenting, possibly because of the societal trend of both parents working. Some of the typical shared parenting residential patterns are as follows: 1) every other week with each parent; 2) the two-two-three pattern; for example, mom might have every Monday and Tuesday overnight; Dad might have every Wednesday and Thursday overnight; the parents would alternate Friday, Saturday, and Sunday overnight. 3) Executive parent plan: every Thursday overnight with the executive (traveling) parent and alternate Friday, Saturday and Sunday overnights. 4) Any plan that works for the parents will likely work for the children.

It is the belief of Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist, that the Child Support Guidelines create in certain instances a view toward “money” (ie child support owed or to be received) in custody cases rather than the best interests of the children. For example, a parent needs 123 overnights to receive treatment under Worksheet B of the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. As a payor, being on Worksheet B generally reduces your child support. As a receiver of child support, being on Worksheet B generally reduces the amount you receive. Talk to your attorney at Woodruff Family Law Group about these issues in your case, but please keep the best interests of your children at the forefront.

Both child custody and child support are issues that can be raised at any time during the child's minority. Either spouse can petition the court to change its prior order of custody or support, based on a showing by the moving party that circumstances have changed materially.

The Family Life Council, 301 East Washington Street, Suite 204, Greensboro, NC 27401, hosts a course called "Children Under Two Roofs." The course has a small fee and is generally given either on two consecutive Thursday nights or all at once on a Saturday morning. The schedule can be obtained by calling the Family Life Council at 336-333-6890. To make the experience as positive as possible, the course does not allow separated parents in the same session. Stepparents and grandparents are also welcome to attend.

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