In North Carolina, you are not required to have a legal document to establish custody, but it is highly advisable for parties who are separating to address custody in a Separation Agreement or a Custody Order entered by the Court Good boundaries make good neighbors and it is helpful for all parties to determine those boundaries before conflicts erupt. Disputes arising between parents over custody or visitation are common. Having an enforceable document that outlines the terms and conditions surrounding custody can go a long way toward reducing conflict and stress for the parents and for the kids.
What happens if you have a verbal agreement?
A verbal agreement between parents is not enforceable and does not address the particular details which arise when parents are splitting and will now have two households between which the children split their time. Establishing a custodial schedule takes time and forethought. It requires the parents to think about specific details relating to each child, such as where each child attends school and extracurricular activities for each child. In a Custody Order or Separation Agreement, the parties can address legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions affecting the welfare of the child, such as medical care, religious upbringing, mental health care, and education. Physical custody refers to where the child is physically located. Parties can have joint, shared 50/50 physical custody of the minor children or one parent can have primary physical custody and the other parent secondary physical custody. A party has primary physical custody if that party has more custodial time with the minor children. . Without a Custody Order or Separation Agreement detailing a physical custodial schedule and legal custody, it is difficult to resolve conflicts which arise.
A legal custody document will help establish consistency and parameters for decision-making, such as creating fair shares of physical time with your child or preventing the other parent from acting in a manner of which you do not approve. Without clear parameters in writing, you may be subjected to the other parent making critical, long-lasting decisions that affect your child without your input.
Resolving Custody Issues without a Legal Custody Document
While informal understandings may work temporarily, there may come a time when disagreements occur over serious issues. . It is important to understand that informal agreements are not enforceable; a Court cannot find a party in contempt for failing to comply with an informal understanding. . This is why it is so important to speak to a family law attorney who can assist you in drafting a Custody Order or Separation Agreement which protects you and your children.
Issues surrounding custody can be highly contentious. It is understandable that a parent may not want to upset the natural balance of peace maintained with the other parent by seeking a court order. However, a legal document memorializing custody agreements offers the best protection a parent can have and reduce future complications. . If you are in need of a legal document establishing your custody rights, call Daphne Edwards at (919) 838-7160.