As divorce lawyers in Raleigh, we have successfully handled hundreds of consent orders for our clients. Many of our divorce cases involve child custody disputes. Child custody is always a very sensitive subject in divorce. Sadly, no matter what either parent does or how well they work together, divorce will impact your children.
Above all else, children need to be loved and reassured during this difficult time. Our job is to take care of the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on your family. Our divorce law firm will prepare your case for settlement or trial and give your case the attention it deserves. No family is the same, and no case is the same.
Get Help from a Raleigh Divorce Attorney for Your Child Custody Case
We have handled hundreds of child custody cases over the past fourteen years. We know North Carolina child custody law and can help ensure that you and your family are on the right path. Child custody disputes happen, even between two good and caring parents. Let our child custody attorneys help you navigate the difficult legal processes so you can focus on what is most important.
What if We Have a Child Custody Agreement?
Child custody disputes, like any other issue in family law, can be settled between the parties with an agreement. It is essential that any agreement be formalized in a legally enforceable way.
There are two ways we can make these agreements legally binding:
- Child custody agreements, usually part of a separation agreement
- Child custody consent orders, which are court orders entered by consent (without a trial) containing the agreed upon custodial terms
Child custody agreements are simply contracts, usually part of a larger contract, which is generally negotiated and signed shortly after separation.
Separation agreements and property settlements work very well for dividing property, providing alimony, and setting child support, but they have serious shortcomings in when it comes to establishing custody. An experienced child custody lawyer can provide you guidance on which settlement options work best for you.
What is a North Carolina Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody agreement is a contract containing terms of custody as agreed to by the parents of minor children.
Are There Problems with Child Custody Agreements?
While couples often use these agreements for years without issue, a court is not required to honor a child custody contract between two people. If someone violates the custody agreement, you will have to file lawsuit for breach. This may allow the court to re-determine custody all over again.
Courts are not bound by your agreement. Most courts will respect that agreement as much as possible, however they are required only to do what is deemed in the best interest of the children. As you will read below, a consent order is a different matter and is much more difficult for a court or party to change.
What is a Consent Order?
A consent order is an order of the court, signed by a judge, with all of the same effects as a court order entered after a trial, only it is entered without a trial based on the signed consent of the parties.
Orders by consent can only be entered after a child custody lawsuit is filed, however this can be arranged in such a way that the parties are not alarmed and understand it is only part of the settlement process. The judge must then sign the order, which will typically happen absent of extraordinary circumstances.
What are the Steps to a Consent Order?
Typically, when parties have an agreement but need a consent order, our attorneys file what is known as a “friendly” lawsuit. The purpose of this lawsuit is only to make entry of the party’s agreement by consent order possible. Both parties will be made aware of the lawsuit before it is filed.
This avoids any surprises and anger from being served with a lawsuit that may anger the other parent and jeopardize your agreement. Your divorce attorney will also assist you with the preparation of the child custody consent order to make certain that it does what you want it do and is legally enforceable.
The order will set your agreement forth in detail and will not include any negative statements, findings or accusations about the parties unless otherwise agreed. Your family law attorney will then submit it to the assigned family court judge for signature and filing. At this point, you will have all the protections and benefits of a child custody order signed by a judge just as if you had concluded a long and costly custody trial.
Repercussions for Violation of a Child Consent Order
Once entered and filed, the order is enforceable and any violations could conceivably result in jail time through a motion and order to show cause process, however jail is often a last resort. Violators of custody orders often have to reimburse the other party for their attorney fees and take corrective action or they will be sent to jail for up to 60 days.
Can a Consent Order Be Changed?
One final advantage with a Child Custody Order by consent is that a court may not change the terms of custody unless a party files a Motion to Modify Custody, and must allege and prove a “substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the prior order affecting the welfare of the minor children.” If there has not been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was entered, then it cannot be changed.
Should I File for a Child Custody Order in Raleigh?
If you and your spouse agree on custody and wish to formalize it, do you need a separation agreement or a consent order?
The answer depends on you and your case.
You may ask why everyone does not seek a Child Custody Order by Consent since they seem preferable. The major reason many people settle custody in a contract such as in the custody provision of a North Carolina Separation Agreement is cost, as the filing of a lawsuit incurs additional expense and legal fees, and there is no guarantee when filed that one party will not back out and force the case to actually be litigated.
Another reason is you may be every bit as likely to violate the order based on your personality or other challenges you have. There could be several other reasons why it is not a good idea in any particular case.
Who Should Request a Child Custody Order?
We advise clients that are dealing with an unreliable spouse or one that fears the worst for any reason to seek a consent order, however we are happy to provide a top quality Custody Agreement if that is what the client prefers.
These factors can help you decide whether or not a consent order is right for you:
- Does your spouse engage in or have a history of substance abuse (alcohol or drugs)?
- Has your spouse engaged in acts of domestic abuse of violence?
- Does your spouse have any issues with their mental health?
- Does your spouse have immediate family in another state or country (or are they likely to move)?
- Does your spouse lie regularly or change their minds often?
- Is your spouse unpredictable or inconsiderate with the kids or your schedule?
- Does your spouse try to dictate to you or dominate you in any way?
- Do you and your spouse have any major differences with regard to raising the kids, ie religion, school preferences, etc?
- Are you willing to trust your spouse to keep the terms of the agreement?
- Does your spouse engage in alienating behavior with the kids?
- Is your spouse a good parent with good parenting skills?
- Do you want the authority of the law via a Court Order backing up the terms of the agreement?
- Do you fall into any of the above categories?
As you can see, the issue boils down to whether or not you anticipate problems with your spouse. Even if you do not currently have issues with the other party, things may change, especially when other romantic interests enter the situation. Permanent custody orders are also difficult to change. This may or may not be a good thing for you depending on your circumstances. If you anticipate wanting to move or marry soon, your attorney needs to know that so that the order is drafted properly.
Consent Orders also serve to keep jurisdiction in the issuing state (North Carolina) pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, at least long enough to prosecute a custody claim. This can help avoid the problem of the other parent filing a case in another county or state later to determine or change custody.
Settle Your Custody Arrangement with a Consent Order
Contact Our Attorneys to Learn More About Consent Orders: (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.