Child Custody and Support
Child Custody is Never Child's Play
The overriding factor in any custody decision is the "best interest of the child." Parents must first ask, what can you do for your child? Start with an analysis of their needs, from basic sustenance to developmental, intellectual, academic, emotional, medical and social needs. Then, ask what resources you can devote to the child. This usually reflects your available time, experience, training and your role with the child during the marriage.
There are two basic components to any custody order: time and decison making. Time determines whom the child will be with at any given hour on any given day. Decision-making is who will make decisions and how the decisions will be made. The term "joint custody" loosely refers to dual decision-making authority or at least that parents will communicate about decisions involving the child. The term "sole custody" loosely refers to making one party exclusively responsible for decision making. None of these terms is a good substitute for a clear definition of what decisions will be made by whom and under what circumstances.
Generally, if there's no history of abuse or neglect, courts favor giving both parents time with their children and encourage them both to be actively involved in their lives. The court will hear testimony from anyone with knowledge about any fact or circumstance affecting the child.
As parents ourselves, we take very seriously our role in helping evaluate the needs of our clients' children. We have unique experience and perspective to help develop a plan for their care after separation, and advocating for that plan.
The ABC's of Child Support
The fact is, both parents are responsible for supporting their child whether or not the parents are married or have custody of the child. If both consent to a support amount, that figure can be set out in an agreement. The amount in an agreement that meets legal formalities is presumed adequate.
In the absence of such an agreement, the District Court will set a child support amount. In most cases the judge uses the "North Carolina Uniform Child Support Guidelines" (the "Guidelines") to compute the amount of child support.