Child Custody and Visitation
Child Custody and Visitation Rights Lawyer
Whether you were never married, are no longer married or are separating from your children’s other parent, you remain a parent to your children forever. The child custody and visitation attorneys of Mast, Johnson, Trimyer, Wright, Booker & Van Patten, P.A. can help you protect and enforce your rights as a parent. To discuss your concerns about child custody and visitation, please contact our law firm today.
Our attorneys have more than 45 years of experience establishing, modifying, and enforcing fair child custody and visitation arrangements. The child’s best interest is served when both parents can maintain an ongoing relationship with their child and when the child receives both parents’ emotional and financial support.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
What does legal custody mean?
In many cases, parents agree to share “joint custody” or “joint legal custody” of their children. This means that both parents are involved and need to consult each other when making important child-rearing decisions, such as those involving education, healthcare, and religion. However, day-to-day decisions, like what the child eats, what he/she wears, and which friends the child can spend time with, are left to the parent, who has actual custody or visitation when those decisions are made.
If you believe your children are not safe with the other parent, or they have demonstrated that they are unfit, you may be able to pursue “sole legal custody” or “sole custody” of the children. This generally means that the parent with sole custody gets to make the important decisions themselves, and they do not have to consult with the other parent.
What does physical custody mean?
As to physical custody, when a child spends more than half of their time with one parent, the parent who has the child most of the time has what is termed “primary custody” or “primary physical custody”. The other parent, who spends less time with the child, has what is called “visitation” or “secondary custody”.
In some cases, parents share or split physical custody and children spend half their time with one parent and half with the other. This is usually called “split custody” or “split joint custody”.
Additionally, our law firm has pursued custody and visitation rights on behalf of grandparents, relatives and others who have had a parent-child-like relationship with the minor child.
Custody Agreements vs. Custody Orders
Sometimes parents may choose to settle custody issues among themselves by agreement, and sometimes it is contained in a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement / Parenting Agreement is essentially a voluntary contract between the parties. Should one party or parent not abide by the terms, to enforce the provisions, you may have to file a lawsuit for breach of contract and custody to seek specific performance of a term contained therein. NOTE: A parent/spouse cannot be forced to sign a Separation Agreement or Custody/Parenting Agreement, and a judge does not sign these agreements, and law enforcement cannot enforce its terms by themselves.
If we file a custody action on your behalf, then a “Custody Order” or “Court Order” will generally result and set forth a custody schedule for both parents. In North Carolina, when a parent files for Custody or Visitation, the parties must attend a “mediation orientation” and “mediation session” without any attorneys, just the parents and a neutral mediator. The mediator will seek to resolve the custody schedule between the parties instead of the judge making that decision. In Mediation, the parties are the sole decision-makers, and the mediator is present to assist in coming to a resolution. If a mediated settlement is reached, it will be memorialized and signed by a judge, becoming a court order.
In the event that the parties cannot resolve the issues through mediation and reach an impasse, then the parties may schedule a court setting for the judge to decide on the custodial arrangement after a hearing. Your attorney will be present at the hearing, and you may bring or subpoena witnesses such as family members, neighbors, teachers, doctors, therapists, etc. after the judge makes a determination, a “court order” results.
Unlike Separation Agreements, a Court / Custody Order is signed by the Judge and becomes enforceable by the Contempt Powers of the Court. This means that the Court may hold a party in civil or criminal contempt and can impose fines, costs, and attorney fees and possibly sentence a party to a term in jail if there is a violation of the court order. Additionally, with Court Ordered Custody, if the right provisions are contained in the Order, then should a parent need immediate assistance to retrieve his or her child? Law enforcement may be allowed to enforce the terms of the order if so directed.
At Mast Law Firm, we help you work toward a parenting plan that works for you and your children. We are effective negotiators who know how to build consensus and craft an amicable agreement. If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, we are experienced in taking child custody and visitation matters to court.
We have been working for families since 1962. If you need a custody lawyer, please contact our North Carolina child custody and visitation attorneys and put our experience to work for you.
Child Custody & Visitation Lawyers at Mast Law Firm
For a confidential consultation regarding child custody and visitation, you can either fill out our online form, or call our Smithfield, North Carolina office at (919) 934-6187, or toll free at (800) 280-6676. or our Cleveland/Garner office at (919) 661-2005. Our Family Child Custody Visitation Lawyers and Attorneys handle cases in North Carolina NC including those that arise in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Durham, Knightdale, Clayton, Benson, Smithfield, Kenly, Selma, Micro, Pinelevel, Wilson Mills or Wilsons Mill, Goldsboro, Fayetteville, etc.
For more information on our full legal services, visit our legal services page.
The Mast Law Firm: Your Lawyers in Smithfield NC