You begin the custody process by filing a claim for custody in family court in your local district court. You will file in your local district court for counties that don't have a specifically delineated family court. The court will generally hear requests for temporary custody more quickly than requests for permanent custody.
In any custody case, the judge will decide both physical custody and legal custody.
- Legal Custody: Legal custody involves making decisions for a child, including education, religion, and medical care. Often parents share the right to make these decisions with joint legal custody.
- Physical Custody: Physical custody is the actual schedule of time that the children will spend with each parent. Parents often share joint physical custody, but sometimes one parent will have primary physical custody, and the other parent will have a set visitation schedule. In some cases, one parent will only have supervised visitation with a child.
During a temporary custody hearing, the party who filed will present evidence first. This evidence can include witness testimony and other exhibits, but the court often abbreviates evidence at a temporary hearing. As a result, the hearing may involve only a few witnesses and a few exhibits from each party, although the court will allow cross-examination and rebuttal evidence. Upon conclusion, the court will determine the child's best interests, often issuing a ruling on the same day of the hearing.
While custody status can change at any time up until a child turns 18, permanent custody is a long-term court order about the legal and physical custody of a child. A permanent custody hearing can take longer to schedule and will involve a more protracted legal process. You and your lawyer will spend a lot of time preparing for a permanent custody hearing, preparing evidence and witnesses.
The judge will want to hear and see evidence about the children, your home, your family, the people in your children's lives, their school, activities, and church at the hearing. The judge will often ask you and your witnesses questions during the hearing to determine what is in the children's best interests. The judge may take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision later, after taking more time to review the evidence. To modify a permanent custody order, a parent must show a substantial change in the child's circumstances since the judge entered the order.
Hire a North Carolina Family Law Firm You Trust
If you're facing a custody dispute or even just working to negotiate a custody arrangement, this can feel stressful and overwhelming. But you don't have to go through this alone. At Caulder & Valentine, our experienced family law attorneys can help. If you live near the Shelby or Gastonia areas of North Carolina, give us a call at 704-470-2440 or contact us online. We can discuss your options, help negotiate, and chart your course forward.