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Cohabitation and Child Custody in North Carolina

Can living with a romantic partner affect an upcoming child custody decision or cause changes to an existing arrangement? The answer is often more complicated than a simple yes or no and several factors are taken into consideration. Our child custody lawyers in Raleigh are exploring the issue of cohabitation and child custody in NC to bring clarity to this topic.

Understanding the Best Interest of the Child

Above all, North Carolina courts determine child custody based on the arrangement that will be in the best interest of the child. Several factors influence this decision, including the parents’: 

  • Relationship with the child
  • Physical and emotional health
  • Ability to provide stability and safe conditions
  • Willingness to promote a positive relationship between the child and other parent
  • History of domestic violence or abuse
  • History of substance abuse

Also, the court will look at the child’s wishes, their ties to home, school, and community, and their relationship with extended family.

Thus, if a parent is living with another romantic partner, the judge would consider if and how that affects the factors above.  

Cohabitation Before the Custody Arrangement

If you are living with a significant other or romantic partner before your divorce is finalized and a child custody arrangement is determined, the most beneficial arrangement is one that is decided between you and your ex-spouse. If the two of you, with your attorneys, can create an arrangement that works for both of you and is in the best interest of your children, the court will most likely approve it. 

On the other hand, if a judge is deciding child custody, they will look at your existing living arrangements. In North Carolina, having a sexual relationship with someone else while you are separated but not divorced is considered adultery, and some judges may look at this negatively and factor this into a custody decision. For example, they may bring up concerns about providing a stable home if you or the other parent is living with a new romantic partner. This is more likely if it is determined that the relationship began before the separation and if this impacted your children or if evidence that the new partner has a history of domestic abuse, substance abuse, or other concerns that could affect the well-being of the child. 

However, if a parent shows that they are meeting the best interest of the child whether or not they are living with someone else, it may not directly affect the judge’s ruling. 

Cohabitation and an Existing Custody Arrangement

After a couple is divorced and there is an existing custody arrangement in place, it’s difficult to change. There has to be a “material change in circumstances,” which would mean the existing circumstances would not be in the best interest of the child. If one parent has concerns that the other parent’s living arrangements, including cohabitation, affect the well-being of the child, they can bring this to family court where the issue will be considered by a judge. 

Typically, if moving in with a romantic partner relocates your child from an existing school, extended family and friends, and away from the other parent, a judge would address this by updating a custody arrangement. Additionally, if the judge finds that cohabitation would negatively impact your child, they may adjust or update the original agreement. Maintaining a stable home life is key to minimizing how cohabitation could affect your custody arrangement. 

Schedule a Consultation with a Child Custody Attorney Today

If you are divorcing and are concerned about child custody, want to update an existing arrangement, or your ex-spouse is trying to use your living arrangement against you to overturn your arrangement, having experienced legal representation is key to a more favorable outcome. At The Doyle Law Group, we have the experience, knowledge, and passion necessary to fight for our clients and help them meet their goals. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at (919) 301-8843 or filling out the form below to get started. 

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