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Cameron Esparza
Cameron Esparza

Legal Documents For Child Custody

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Legal Documents For Child Custody

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about the child. Physical custody means the right to have the child in your physical care, either all the time or part of the time. Both legal and physical custody can be either shared by the parents or held solely by one parent.

Any parent can file for custody, whether the parents are separated, divorced or never married. Third parties, such as grandparents, relatives, or others who have cared for the child, can file for custody or visitation under some circumstances. To obtain custody, non-parents must prove that the parents are either unfit to care for the child or have not acted in accordance with their rights as parents, for instance, by abandoning the child to be raised by a non-parent. Grandparents may also be awarded visitation in some circumstances when there is a custody case between the parents. Non-relatives requesting custody must prove that they have a substantial relationship with the child.

Custody mediation is a conversation between the parents assisted by a professional mediator. The mediator works with the parents, without attorneys in the room, to come to an agreement about child custody, if possible. You can learn more about mediation in the Custody Mediation Help Topic.

Judges may enter either temporary or permanent custody orders. A temporary custody order will be in effect until the judge holds a new trial to make a decision about modifying the temporary order or entering a permanent order. Temporary custody orders are legally binding, but easier to change than permanent orders. If you are unhappy with a temporary custody order, you can schedule your case for a review of the temporary order or for a permanent custody trial. Temporary custody orders can become permanent if neither party requests another hearing for a long period of time. To change a permanent custody order, you must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the child since the permanent order was entered.

Custody orders from other states are valid in North Carolina. In general, even if you and/or the child has moved from another state to North Carolina, a judge in the original state will continue to make decisions in your case as long as one of the parties still lives there. If everyone has left the original state, you can ask the North Carolina courts to take over your case. If you want a North Carolina judge to enforce or change your out-of-state order, you must begin by registering the order in North Carolina. You can find the petition to register a custody order from another state or country here.

Parties with legal custody (decision-making authority) make long-term decisions about education, health, religion, care, welfare and other important areas. Physical custody (child access/visitation) refers to where children live and how much time they spend with each parent. Watch a video on important terms in a custody case.

Complete a Complaint for Custody (CC-DR-004) to ask to the court to grant you custody. File the form in the Circuit Court where the child lives or where either parent lives. Make enough copies for the other parent and keep at least one copy for yourself. Watch a video on how to file a custody case.

Every county has a family services coordinator who knows about programs available in your jurisdiction. Find that person in your area. Court programs include co-parenting classes, mediation, custody evaluations, child access or visitation services, and more. Watch a video on legal proceedings in a custody case.

Maintain clear, detailed child custody documentation. Keep a record of visits, phone calls, emails, and any other forms of contact between you and your children's other parent and between your children and the other parent. As best as you can, stick to the facts and keep the language neutral.

In Alimentor, you can document each parent's time spent with the children by creating records containing


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