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When parents divorce, who gets custody of the kids?

If you're a parent going through a divorce or separation, you've probably asked yourself the question above: who will get custody of the kids? But just because you've asked the question, doesn't mean you've gotten an answer.

In fact, you may have other questions concerning custody arrangements in North Carolina - questions we'd like to answer for you today.

How is custody determined?

If both parents have not come to an agreement regarding a custody arrangement, either in a separation agreement or a parenting agreement, judges in our state will look at a number of facts that will impact not only physical custody of the child - where and with whom the child will live - but legal custody as well - who makes the primary decisions concerning the child's wellbeing.

It's important to note that just because a judge awards joint physical custody does not mean he or she will award joint legal custody as well. In some cases, a judge may see fit to award sole legal custody in a joint physical custody situation if it will benefit the child more in the end.

How is time split with parents?

Much like other states across the nation, North Carolina values custody arrangements that account for the fact that parents should get equal time with their children provided this is in the children's best interests. As such, it's not uncommon to see joint custody arrangements that try their best to honor an even 50/50 split of time.

Do children have a say in custody arrangements?

As is the case in a few other states, North Carolina judges do take into consideration the wishes of older children when making custody determinations. This does not mean, however, that the child makes the final decision or that their wishes will have a definitive impact on the judge's final decision.

Can a custody order be changed?

When it comes to custody arrangements, the law takes into consideration the fact that circumstances can change to the point in which an existing custody arrangement is no longer feasible. In such cases where one or both parents can show that a significant change in circumstances has occurred, then a judge may consider changing the terms of an arrangement to better suit the situation and the child's best interests.

Is it necessary to get a lawyer?

No, but if you want to ensure the full protection of your parental rights, then the answer can be yes. Seeking representation in family law matters is never a bad idea, especially when so much is at stake in these cases. While a lawyer may be an added expense, many agree they are worthwhile because they can answer any lingering questions as well as protect one's rights and best interests.

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