Divorcing while having children can be challenging and stressful, not just for the parents, but also for the kids. Generally, parents share legal custody of their children after divorce. Legal custody allows a parent to make important decisions on behalf of the child. When it comes to physical custody, where the child resides, one parent is typically the primary custodial parent, and the other parent has regular visitation. Parents and courts will decide where children will live after their parents’ divorce, but many wonder whether the child has the option to choose his or her preference.
Child Custody: The Best Interest of the Child
When you think about where your children will reside after your divorce, you must first and foremost consider what is in the best interest of the child. There are many factors that you will want to think about, such as the age of the child, whether the child has established friends in their current neighborhood or school, whether one parent has more time to spend taking care of the child, whether one parent has already been taking care of the child, and many more issues. The goal is to make sure the child will be as happy and well-adjusted following the divorce as possible.
Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Can any attorney help me with my family law needs in North Carolina?”
Can a Child Decide Where to Live?
It can be wise to seek input from older children in determining where they will reside after a divorce. North Carolina does not have specific rules that govern if or when a child can make a request of this nature. However, a judge generally will not even consider testimony from a child under the age of about 12. It is important to note that the judge will make the decision as to whether a child will provide their preferences. Even if a judge does listen to a child in a custody matter, the judge must still ensure that the living arrangement is made based on what is best for the child.
Where Will Our Child Reside?
Courts prefer that parents work out the major details of their divorce on their own, and this includes where their children will reside. When children live primarily with one parent, the other parent will provide support and will have regular visits with the children. It is important to discuss the details of the arrangement as part of your divorce settlement. When parents are not able to come to an agreement, the judge may request that you participate in mediation. A mediator is a professional who is trained to assist couples through divorce disputes.
Can We Modify a Child Custody Order?
Once the judge approves child custody, they put it into a court order. You can modify a child custody order, but only in cases where there are significant changes. Then, you can only change the order through the courts. You may need to change an order, for example, when children get older, and the circumstances change. A child may wish to live with their other parent as they progress into their teen years.
However, you need to keep in mind that a child cannot simply request that they live with their other parent because they do not like the rules of their custodial parent. The court has an obligation to ensure that the child’s living arrangements are in their best interest. To learn more about child custody and other divorce matters, contact us today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 for a consultation. We practice in North Carolina as well as South Carolina.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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