Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can I do to gain custody of my child in North Carolina?”
Custody is often among the most contentious aspects of a divorce proceeding and understandably so. Though property division can be acrimonious, nothing is as emotionally draining as the thought of dividing up time with your children. Typically, both parties are eager to spend as much time as possible with the kids, something that invariably leads to conflict.
One historic problem with custody disputes is that women have often been favored over men, with men long complaining that judges tilted the balance in favor of mothers. Though much has been done to even the playing field in recent years, with researchers and judges agreeing that co-parenting is better for everyone, some legislators have been eager to force even faster progress, often by passing laws aimed at forcing judges to more seriously consider awarding equal parenting time.
The latest example of such a strategy occurred late last month in Florida where the state Senate passed a measure that would alter the law impacting custody for thousands of families. The law would require judges to presume that it is ultimately best for children to divide their time equally between both parents. This presumption in favor of equality is not absolute and can be altered under some circumstances, but would still carry tremendous weight.
Currently, the law in Florida (much like here in North Carolina) requires judges to weigh a variety of factors when deciding how to divide custody. There are 20 such factors to be considered, all designed to keep the best interest of the child at the forefront. The problem is that these 20 supposedly neutral factors are often used to benefit of one party even when there may be no real reason to rule against the other. Advocates for change say the presumption in favor of equal parenting time will fix this imbalance, putting judges at a more fairly balanced starting position.
Studies have been done to back up the claim that children tend to do better in situations where they spent equal time with both parents. Research indicates that children who spend some time with each parent have fewer behavior problems, higher self-esteem and objectively do better in school. Other studies have found that children who divide time equally between parents are likely to have better mental and emotional health than those with only one parent.
It’s for this reason that advocates of change pushed the Senate to propose the change to Florida family law. The measure, if passed by the House and signed by the governor, would require judges to start at a point of 50/50 custody. Should circumstances exist that cause a judge to deviate from this standard, that is perfectly fine, but such deviations will need to be detailed in an order explaining why 50/50 custody is not a good or workable option.
Though there are many who embrace the change, others have criticized the measure as an attack on judicial discretion. Judges are experienced and understand the law and ought to be allowed to bring that knowledge and experience to bear on the cases before them. The new measure could work to tie judges’ hands, something that could lead to custody decisions in the best interest of parents, but possibly not their children.
If you are involved in a custody issue where you think the other parent or stepparent is alienating your child from you, it is important for you to have a skilled family law attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A certified Family-Law Specialist, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state and administrative courts in North Carolina, before the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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