Child Custody Attorneys in North Carolina & South Carolina
Experienced, Professional & Compassionate Family Law & Child Custody Lawyers
Child custody legal disputes are often accompanied by insurmountable stress, heartache, and uncertainty. Collins Family & Elder Law Group was created to support families through these emotionally draining cases. Our child custody attorneys in NC and SC are committed to helping you and your child find peace of mind.
As you work with us throughout your child custody dispute, we’ll enable you to protect your child’s best interests and make informed decisions throughout the process. As we explain the law, advise you on your best options, and provide fierce advocacy on your behalf, your family will be empowered to move forward in life with a renewed sense of confidence and hope for the future.
What You Need to Know About Family Law & Child Custody
What Happens If Parents Can’t Agree on Custody Matters?
When parents decide to divorce, they have the opportunity to reach a child custody agreement outside the courtroom through mediation and collaborative law. The agreement will typically be subject to court review and approval.
If a separating couple cannot reach a mutual agreement, they will take their case to a family court judge who will make physical and legal child custody decisions for them based on a set of predetermined criteria. The judge has the power to create a schedule that determines when each parent has rights to their minor child. Regardless of how your case resolves, you should get an attorney for child custody.
At Collins Family & Elder Law Group, we work with you to avoid the court scenario. You know your child and your situation far better than any judge ever could, and we believe that reaching a custody agreement with your ex-spouse is preferable to having a judge make the decision for you.
Legal vs. Physical Child Custody in North & South Carolina
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make major decisions regarding their child’s health, education, religious upbringing, and general welfare. Legal custody provisions address the process for consultation and decision-making on issues of major significance.
On the other hand, physical custody refers to the day-to-day living arrangement of the child and addresses when the child is with each parent. The physical custody arrangement will usually address time-sharing for holidays and special occasions, as well as regular, weekly time-sharing.
It’s not always the case that one parent has full legal and physical custody over their child. Courts will frequently order the parents to share legal and physical custody, and sometimes give one parent the ability to make a final decision regarding legal custody decisions in the event the parents cannot agree.
In an ideal world, parents would always make these arrangements on their own instead of deferring to a judge, but this isn’t always possible. When there is a deadlock in your custody battle, you need the help of a child custody attorney to fight for your parental rights.
How Does a Court Determine Who Gets Child Custody in North & South Carolina?
Child custody is not guaranteed to either parent. When parents can’t agree on a custody schedule, the judge will make decisions based on the child’s “best interests.”
More specifically, the judge will decide which parent is more fit to make decisions for the child by finding out:
- Who has a more favorable home environment
- Who takes care of the child more often
- Who has better parenting skills and education
- Who is in better financial shape
- Who leads a healthier lifestyle
- Who has a better relationship with the child
- Whether either parent has a history of illegal or immoral conduct, such as domestic violence or substance abuse
The judge has the right to take the child’s preferences into account, but this depends on the age and maturity of the child and doesn’t hold enough weight to determine the final outcome. Work with a child custody lawyer to reach the most favorable outcome for you and your son or daughter.
What Is Emergency Custody & When Is It Necessary to Apply for It?
An emergency custody hearing is held when the custodial parent jeopardizes the health or safety of the child and/or other criteria in the child custody statutes are met that allow such a hearing.
Examples of situations in which it may be appropriate to seek emergency custody include:
- Domestic Violence: A parent may need to seek emergency child custody if there is a history or presence of domestic violence in the household. This can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse between the parents or directed towards the child.
- Neglect or Abuse by the Other Parent: If there is evidence of neglect or abuse by the other parent—such as failure to provide basic necessities, exposing the child to dangerous environments, or inflicting harm on the child—seeking emergency child custody is essential.
- Arrest of the Other Parent: If the other parent has been arrested and their actions pose a potential risk to the child's well-being, it may be necessary to seek emergency child custody.
- Serious Illness or Injury of the Other Parent: In the event of a serious illness or injury that renders the other parent unable to care for the child, emergency child custody may be necessary to ensure the child's immediate needs are met.
- Unfitness of the Other Parent: If the other parent is deemed unfit to care for the child due to factors such as mental illness, addiction, or criminal behavior, seeking emergency child custody may be crucial.
- Child's Safety at Risk in the Current Living Situation: If the child's safety is compromised in their current living situation due to factors such as dangerous surroundings, exposure to harmful individuals, or severe neglect, emergency child custody may be necessary.
- Substance Abuse by the Other Parent: If the other parent struggles with substance abuse, and it poses a risk to the child's safety and well-being, seeking emergency child custody may be warranted.
- Abduction or Disappearance of the Child: If the child has been abducted or has disappeared, immediate action is necessary to locate and protect the child. Contact law enforcement authorities, file a missing person report, and work closely with a family law attorney experienced in child abduction and emergency custody cases.
- Financial Instability of the Other Parent: If the other parent's financial instability places the child at risk of inadequate care, homelessness, or instability, seeking emergency child custody may be necessary.
- Unforeseen Changes in the Other Parent's Circumstances: If sudden and unforeseen changes occur in the other parent's circumstances, such as relocation, incarceration, or a significant decline in mental or physical health, emergency child custody may be required to ensure the child's immediate safety and well-being.
In such cases, a judge has the power to grant an immediate, temporary court order to protect the child. If, for instance, your ex-spouse tried to relocate your child without consent, or you discovered that your child was being neglected or abused while in the other parent’s care, you may be able to file for emergency custody.
Collins Family & Elder Law Group knows how to proceed quickly and effectively in these situations and ensure the safety of your child. We can also protect you from false allegations if your ex-spouse tries to wrongly use an emergency custody order against you.
Can Child Custody Orders Be Modified?
Courts recognize that life brings changes and difficulties. Our skilled child custody lawyers in North Carolina and South Carolina will continue to stand by your side if you need to modify a custody plan due to significant changes in your life, or if you need to enforce a custody agreement with a delinquent former spouse.
Whether you need trusted counsel for child custody modifications or child custody enforcement, Collins Family & Elder Law Group can help you preserve your child’s best interests.
Child Custody FAQ
Avoid a Courtroom Battle
Working with an experienced child custody attorney in North Carolina or South Carolina can help you avoid a courtroom battle that could result in a heartbreaking, court-mandated order. Turn your child custody agreement into an active arrangement that you can have control over rather than putting your family’s matters in the hands of a judge.
Contact Collins Family & Elder Law Group today at (704) 289-3250 or reach us online to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.
How can a family law attorney help me with child custody matters in North Carolina and South Carolina?
A family law attorney can provide valuable assistance and guidance in child custody matters in both North Carolina and South Carolina. At Collins Family Law Group, our attorneys focus on child custody cases and have extensive knowledge of the relevant laws and legal procedures in both states. We can explain your rights, obligations, and options under the law, ensuring that you understand the process and can make informed decisions. We can assess the specific facts and circumstances of your case and develop a strategic plan tailored to your goals, as well as evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, identify potential issues, and provide guidance on the best course of action.
Many child custody cases involve negotiation and mediation to reach agreements outside of court. An attorney from our firm can negotiate on your behalf, working towards a favorable custody arrangement with the other parent. We can also participate in mediation sessions, helping facilitate productive discussions and finding solutions that benefit all parties involved.
We are also prepared to represent you in court proceedings and negotiations related to child custody. We know how to advocate for your interests, present your case effectively, and ensure that your voice is heard.
What role does child support play in child custody cases?
In both North and South Carolina, child support is determined based on the "Income Shares Model," which considers the income of both parents and the number of children involved. The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines provide a formula to calculate child support, while the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines provide a worksheet to determine child support based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children. These guidelines are generally followed unless the court finds substantial evidence to deviate from them.
In addition to other factors, the child custody arrangement—whether joint or sole custody—may influence the child support decision. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be required to pay more child support. Visitation rights and the amount of time spent with the child can also impact child support. If visitation exceeds a certain threshold, it may affect the child support calculation.
What is a parenting plan, and why is it important?
A parenting plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the arrangements for child custody, visitation schedules, and co-parenting responsibilities after the separation or divorce of parents. It is a vital tool for parents going through this transition, as it provides structure, clarity, and stability for both the parents and the children involved.
A parenting plan may include legal and physical child custody arrangements, a visitation schedule, co-parenting responsibilities, and other important matters that affect both the parents and their shared children. The plan may include specifics regarding where the child/children will spend holidays, school breaks, and vacations; where they will go to school, what activities they will participate in, and which healthcare providers they will see; and various decision-making processes, communication expectations, and methods for resolving disputes among the parents.
It is extremely important for separating parents to put a parenting plan into place. These plans provide stability, structure, clarity, and legal protection for everyone involved. They can be used to enhance communication between the two parents, resolve conflicts, and ensure that the child/children’s best interests are always kept in mind.
How is child visitation determined in the Carolinas?
In North Carolina, the courts encourage both parents to have regular and meaningful contact with their child unless it is determined to be contrary to the child's best interests. Visitation schedules are typically determined based on the child's best interests, considering factors such as the child's age, relationship with each parent, stability of the home environment, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse. The courts prioritize joint custody when appropriate and feasible, aiming to ensure that both parents play a significant role in the child's life.
In South Carolina, child visitation is also determined based on the child's best interests, with the goal of promoting the child's welfare and maintaining a meaningful relationship with both parents. The courts consider various factors, such as the child's age, emotional ties with each parent, the ability of each parent to provide for the child's needs, and the child's preferences (if they are deemed mature enough to express them).
If the noncustodial parent poses a risk to the child's safety or well-being, the court may order supervised visitation or impose other necessary restrictions.
What is the difference between joint and sole custody?
Joint and sole child custody are two different arrangements that determine how parents share legal and physical responsibilities for their child. In joint custody, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities in making major decisions regarding the child's upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion. Generally, with joint custody, the child spends significant time with both parents, often dividing their time between their parents' homes on a relatively equal basis. However, it is important to note that joint custody does not necessarily mean an exact 50/50 time split. The specific arrangement can vary based on the child's needs and the parents' circumstances.
With sole custody, one parent has primary physical and legal custody of the child, while the other parent may have visitation rights or limited decision-making power. The parent with sole custody has the authority and responsibility to make major decisions about the child's upbringing without consulting the noncustodial parent. The child primarily resides with the custodial parent, who assumes the main day-to-day care and decision-making responsibilities. Sole custody may be awarded if there are concerns about the noncustodial parent's ability to provide a stable environment, or if it is determined to be in the child's best interests.