Nothing in this world is more important than our children.
When you as a parent find yourself faced with a separation or divorce, determining how to handle custody is the most important decision you will make. The thought of your child(ren) not being at home with you every night is so hard to come to grips with for many parents. What should you do? What should you agree to? What is “typical”? What tends to work best? How can you ensure your children’s safety, health, education, well being and happiness in this new world involving two households (Please see our step by step guide at the bottom of the page)?
At the Doyle Law Group, we know how important children are in our lives, and we resolve to guide each client through every custodial option with a goal of zealously protecting the safety and welfare of children, and ensuring an enriching relationship from now and into the future. We believe that our client’s need to focus on their kids during this difficult time of transition and so we focus on protecting their legal rights and dealing with the legal issues. We work with each you, our client to create goals, formulate a plan that protects your kids and addresses your concerns, and to put that plan into affect while ensuring that everything possible is done to help your children adjust. We also offer assistance and resources if needed to help parents adjust to new challenges and assist parties in co-parenting in a new environment, or parenting alone as is sometimes necessary.
Coming to an Agreement
In most cases, the best way to handle Raleigh child custody for all involved is to come up with an agreement from both parents that resolves custodial time and ensures effective co-parenting. While no agreement is perfect, we assist Clients in formulating and presenting workable custodial schedules using our extensive experience and expertise to address problems and potential problems ahead of time, thereby avoiding trouble down the road. If our Client works out an agreement with the other parent for custodial time, we work with our Client’s to make sure that the agreement is practical and will meet their goals in the months and years to come. We suggest plans for physical custodial schedules, holiday schedules, transportation, schooling, overnight guests, education decision making, extra curricular activities, transportation to extracurricular and educational events, telephone and other communication, access to phones, relocation issues, future disputes, avoiding criticism of the parents, affirming each parents role in the future, remarriage of the parties, access to school and medical records, medical decision making and many, many more areas that are not immediately apparent. Agreements do not always specifically deal with or resolve all of these issues, but our Clients have the option to include such provisions if they so choose. We can prepare a complete, ready to sign Custody Agreement for your spouse, or we can negotiate with your Spouse or their attorney. We can facilitate mediation, settlement conferences, or take the matter to Court if necessary.
Sometimes an Agreement Cannot be Reached
If an Agreement cannot be reached, or the other parent is simply not fit at present to have any significant custodial time, then we take the matter to Court using all of our years of experience and expertise for you to ensure the safety and welfare of your children. Our family law attorney’s have successfully handled hundreds of custodial matters over the years, and we have the knowledge and ability to work with you to prepare the strongest case possible. Our method involves extensive preparation, effective exhibits and evidence, well prepared testimony from witnesses, and convincing arguments to the Court, and finally presenting credible plans to the Court that we feel are in the children’s best interest. In many cases we will use experts to aid in the presentation of our case. The vast majority of cases settle out of Court, however rest assured if Court is necessary, we will do our very best to ensure a positive outcome.
Effective methods to settle custody cases include basic negotiation, mediation, and sometimes arbitration. In North Carolina, if a case does not settle before filing suit, parents are required to attend a mandatory mediation program which often facilitates a settlement through compromise. In some cases we private mediation where both parties and their attorneys work with a professional mediator to assist the parties in reaching an effective compromise. Arbitration’s are somewhat like a private court hearing, although typically less formal and less confrontational. Arbitration involve the parties utilizing the services of a professional arbitrator, who will hear from both parties and receive evidence from each side before rendering a decision much like a Judge. The main practical difference is that an Arbitrator follows the rules established by the parties, hears only your case, and hears and decides the case on a schedule set by the parties.
METHODS OF SETTLEMENT PARENTING AGREEMENTS:
Parenting Agreements are a legally binding contract that is based on the agreement of the parties regarding issues of child custody and can come about through negotiation, mediation or methods used to reach a mutually agreeable resolution without court intervention. Utilizing this method to address your child custody issues is a way to not only avoid the expense of going to court, but can also salvage a positive co-parenting relationship with the other parent by making the matter not one pitting you against each other but working together toward a common goal – what is in the best interest of your children. Unfortunately for some, handling this matter in court is necessary; however, there are techniques that can be employed to minimize the emotional and financial damage of a contested child custody case while still ensuring that the best interests of your child are protected.
Parenting Agreements are often effective in issues involving schools and decision making with third party agencies and parties. The greatest weakness in a standalone Parenting Agreement involves the lack of enforce-ability and recognition by Courts and law enforcement and the difficulty in dealing with violations of such agreements. In essence, Parenting Agreements that are NOT incorporated or adopted into a Court Order will not typically be enforced by law enforcement, and a Judge is free to over rule or ignore a Parenting Agreement if the Court determines it is not in the best interest of a minor child. Consent Orders (described below) can be enforced by police (depending on the wording of the order) and Courts cannot change, ignore, or simply overrule a Consent Order for permanent child custody without finding that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the entry of the order affecting the welfare of the minor child.
CUSTODIAL AGREEMENTS WITHIN A RALEIGH SEPARATION AGREEMENT:
Parenting agreements are often included within the broader context of a Separation Agreement in cases where the parents were married and are resolving all marital issues in addition to custody. These agreements will work like a contract, just as a stand along Parenting Agreement does and comes with the same advantages and drawbacks. Just as with standalone Parenting Agreements, a Court is not required to recognize or enforce the custodial provisions if they are deemed not to be in the best interests of the minor child, however courts do tend show great deference to prior agreements reached by the parties if the circumstances allow.
CONSENT CUSTODY ORDERS:
Consent Custody Orders are the most effective method of formalizing a custody agreement with regard to enforce-ability and to ensure compliance. Our divorce lawyers recommend Custody Orders be used in all cases where we cannot rely upon the goodwill of the other parent to follow agreements. In other words, if the other parent does not typically honor their word, and they cannot be counted to act in the best interest of the children, the Court Orders are best as the potential consequences of violating the agreements set forth in a Consent Order are much more timely and severe as well as less costly in terms of attorneys’ fees. Violation of Court Orders can result in a party being found in Contempt of Court, which can include jail time as well as other consequences. Custody Consent Orders are also recommended strongly in cases involving substance abuse by a parent, any history of abuse or neglect, the possibility of relocation of the other parent, or when we just do not trust the other parent to keep to the terms.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO DEALING WITH RALEIGH CHILD CUSTODY AND CHILD SUPPORT.
1. Schedule a consultation with a Raleigh child custody Attorney with an expertise in North Carolina Family Law.
When selecting an attorney represent you in your child custody and child support matter, ask how long they have been practicing family law in North Carolina? How much of their practice is devoted to the practice of family law? How much of their practice is in the county in which your case will be filed? Your attorney should be well versed in North Carolina Family law as well as the mechanics of the county in which your case may be litigated. Explain to your attorney the issues you are most concerned about regarding child custody and child support as well as the circumstances surrounding the end of your relationship. Talk to your attorney about your children’s individual needs and advise of any negative issues they may be currently experiences as a result of the end of the relationship.
Some documents that can be helpful to bring to your consultation would be:
* A timeline of events: setting out the dates that certain significant events occurred, as part of the end of the relationship, relating to child custody and child support;
* Report cards and health information related to your children;
* A list of questions and concerns you have; and
* Most recent tax returns and pay stubs for each party if available.
With this information in hand, the attorney can give you best advice possible regarding your unique needs relating to child custody and child support issues.
2. What are your child custody and child support goals?
In an ideal situation, what would the custodial schedule look like for your children? How does this arrangement work considering your children’s extracurricular activities and where each parent now resides? How will this arrangement affect day to day activities such as getting the children to school? What are each parents traditional holiday celebration habits? Do they involve significant travelling? How can you ensure your children get to spend quality time with each parent during the holidays?
3. How can we formalize our agreement?
Typically, you have two methods to formalize custody agreements:
* Custodial Agreements (a legally binding contract signed by the parties that are typically included in a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement), described in more detail above; or
* Consent order (Enforceable as a Court Order as described in more detail above)
4. How likely is it that the other party will agree to your proposal?
Keep in mind that an agreement requires the cooperation of both parties. If you feel that is not likely to happen, you may have to file a court action and then attempt negotiation so that if a settlement is not attainable, you always have the option of having the judge make the decision for you and the other party. In addition, if you are dealing with an opposing party who is habitually dishonest or suffers from significant mental or addiction issues that affect their ability to parent, you may best served litigating your case. While negotiation is a cost effective was to resolve child custody and child support issues, engaging in negotiation without any hope of settlement or with someone who is unreliable or irresponsible can unnecessarily cost significant sums of money and time with no benefit to you or your children. If you have any concerns that your former significant other may fit into one of the categories discussed above, be sure discuss these issues and options with your attorney.
5. A complete proposal is best when negotiating. A through and detailed proposal being sent to the opposing party will minimize any potential miscommunication and minimize the risk of a possible settlement breaking down due to a disagreement regarding the “details” of a potential settlement. A proposal that is in formal form and ready to sign also allows the case proceed to a resolution in a more efficient manner. Negotiating in writing also minimizes the hostility that can arise when parties negotiate face to face, and the result is the emotions between the parties are a distraction from meaningful settlement discussion. Some boundaries can be implemented by the proposal being accompanied by a letter from your attorney setting forth a deadline and any other important information that may be relevant to the proposal.
6. Prepare for child custody disputes regardless of whether or not you think you can agree. Preparing and gathering information when filing a child custody lawsuit. It is imperative that you cooperate and follow your attorney’s instruction when you are requested to provide information or documents that are necessary to the planning, preparation, and initiation of any custody action. Some items that you should begin to gather prior to filing such a lawsuit are school records, health records, witness statements, photographs, and any other relevant information.
7. Don’t forget what is important – your kids.
This will be a very emotional and financially difficult time for you now that one household is divided into two. You now have half the financial and emotional support you may have once had. It is very important to focus on your kids and not get let the legal process and its related stress affect your relationship with your children. Counseling for the family or for your children is a healthy way to get help in discussing the issues surrounding the end of the traditional parenting relationship the children have known, and provide insight on have to cope with these changes and move forward. Spending extra time with your children can be a “positive distraction” from the chaos that often results from a contentious child custody case. You attorney will handle the legal work for you. While you should work closely with your family law attorney, it is important that you do not let it consume your life. Make sure your children are your priority.
8. Raleigh Child Support calculations.
Child Support in North Carolina is based upon a calculation set forth in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The results of any calculation depends upon the custodial time with each parent, income of the parties, expenses of the minor children (daycare, health insurance, etc) and other issues. Your family law attorney should run Guideline calculations for you under various scenarios so that you can get an idea of what a reasonable amount of child support for your unique situation may be.
9. Keep in mind that can agree to any child support amount.
If you have an agreement for child support in the amount of $400.00 per month for example, and the calculation calls for $750.00, the courts will accept this agreement so long as it is sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of the minor children and the parties particular financial circumstances.
If you are the paying party, it is important that any child support agreement be formalized to protect you from the risk of child support delinquency accruing due to a failure of paying the guideline calculation amount from the date of separation, despite a verbal agreement.
If you are receiving child support, it is important to solidify child support payments to ensure consistent and timely support as well as an effective way to ensure the payor complies with the obligation. Formalizing support can also assist with obtaining credit or certain other benefits.
Questions for Our Raleigh Divorce Attorney?
Every child custody and child support claim is unique and requires specific advice from an experienced child custody attorney. Children are always the most important issue in every divorce. Ensuring that your rights are protected, as well as the future of your children, is imperative. If you would like a consultation regarding child custody or support, please contact us at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below.
Contact Us & Speak With One Of Our Raleigh Child Custody Attorneys by calling (919) 301-8843
Protecting your Privacy ~ Your privacy is our primary concern. At the Doyle Law Group, we understand the importance of protecting your privacy and will never share your contact information with a 3rd party. Contacting our law firm does not imply any form of attorney-client relationship.