Best Interest of the Child Standard
Going through a divorce is often a challenging—and stressful—experience. But for divorcing couples that have children, it’s easy for the intense emotions involved to become overwhelming. In North Carolina, courts use the best interests of the child standard when making child custody determinations. And while this provides some clarity for parents going through a divorce, there is still a significant amount of uncertainty. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, our Charlotte family law attorneys have extensive experience handling child custody matters in the initial divorce proceeding as well as in modification hearings. We can help you understand your rights, what options you have, and how to effectively pursue the result you’re hoping to achieve.What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard?
In North Carolina, child custody matters are guided by the "best interests of the child" standard, which prioritizes the well-being and welfare of the child involved. The primary goal is to determine a custody arrangement that promotes the child's overall growth, development, and stability. Understanding the best interests of the child standard is imperative for parents who are in the process of divorce or who are looking to modify an existing child custody order.What Factors Do Courts Consider When Assessing What’s in a Child’s Best Interest?
North Carolina law provides specific factors that judges must consider when determining the best interests of the child. These factors include the child's relationship with each parent, the child's adjustment to their home, school, and community, the mental and physical health of the parents, any history of domestic violence, and the child's preferences if they are of sufficient age and maturity.
As a default, courts in North Carolina assume it is in the child's best interests to have ongoing and meaningful contact with both parents, promoting a healthy and loving relationship. However, the court may deviate from this preference if it finds that shared custody is not suitable for the child's well-being.
Additionally, courts value maintaining stability and continuity in the child's life. For example, if one parent has been the primary caregiver and provides a stable and nurturing environment, the court may consider awarding primary custody to that parent to minimize disruption in the child's routine.
However, a parent’s apparent inability to effectively co-parent can create issues. This is because courts assess each parent's ability to promote a positive relationship between the child and the other parent. Thus, the willingness to cooperate, communicate, and facilitate the child's relationship with the noncustodial parent are important considerations.
Charlotte family law courts also place a significant emphasis on the child's safety and well-being. If there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or other harmful factors, the court may prioritize protecting the child from such risks, potentially limiting or denying custody or visitation rights.
Finally, the preferences of children may be taken into account. However, the weight given to their wishes depends on various factors, including their age, understanding, and reasoning ability.When Do North Carolina Courts Use the Best Interests of the Child Standard?
Courts look to what is in a child’s best interests anytime the court must make a decision related to who will care for the child. Primarily, this means that courts use the standard when making initial child-custody determinations, such as during divorce proceedings, as well as when either parent seeks to modify a child custody order.Work with an Experienced Charlotte Family Law Attorney to Ensure Your Interests Are Protected
If you have questions about the best interests of the child standard in North Carolina, reach out to the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule a no-obligation consultation. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize that your relationship with your children is among your top priorities, and we will do everything possible to help you reach your desired outcome. For over a decade, we’ve been advocating on behalf of parents who want what’s best for their families, and we look forward to seeing how we can help you. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Kannapolis divorce lawyer, give us a call at 704-405-2580. You can also reach our Cabarrus County family law attorneys at 704-918-4747. We represent clients in Kannapolis and Concord, as well as in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Iredell, Rowan, and Union Counties.