Child Custody and Discipline

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

When a couple has children, it is natural to have disagreements regarding parenting styles and methods of discipline. A big one is whether to use corporal discipline. We were all raised differently, and there may be aspects of the way we were raised that we either want to continue or avoid with our children. These disagreements can be heated and can become an unhealthy source of conflict between married couples. When couples divorce—even in spite of more limited contact—these disagreements regarding parenting styles and discipline can become worse.

Consider Counseling

One option for separated parents who cannot agree on discipline is to consider professional intervention, such as counseling for the child and/or the parents. A family therapist may be able to help the parents—together or individually—to address and resolve issues relating to different discipline styles and beliefs. 

Seeking Court Intervention

If parents cannot get past the issue of different discipline styles amongst themselves, one option is to seek orders from the court. Parties have the ability to seek a modification of custody orders from courts, provided they can show that there is a change in circumstances and that the new orders are in the children’s best interest. However, just because a parent can file a petition to modify a child custody order, does not mean that they always should.

It is important to understand that courts are focused on the “big picture” elements of a child’s best interest. In other words, courts are not inclined to micromanage parenting decisions. In fact, drawing the court’s attention to the conflict may backfire in that the court becomes aware that the parent’s high level of conflict is actually harming the child, resulting in orders that neither parent wants.

Instead, speak with an attorney about the possibility of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, to come together to reach a formal understanding of permissible discipline.

Getting Child Protective Services or Law Enforcement Involved

Significantly, discipline sometimes gets out of hand. In the past few years, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has addressed more physical discipline cases and has determined that hitting a child with a belt and leaving multiple visible bruises constituted abuse and not discipline, and that serious injury is not required to affirm a finding of abuse.

If you believe that your spouse’s discipline crosses into physical abuse, then speak to an attorney immediately. For example, some people who were hit with a belt or a “switch” as a child may swear that it is an effective method of discipline, while others see it as clear abuse which should be reported to child protective services. Let us not forget the national headlines of when NFL running back Adrian Peterson disciplined his child with a switch during a parent visit, resulting in the child’s custodial mother filing a police report and Peterson pleading no contest to a reckless assault charge.

Contact New Direction Family Law

If you seem to be in endless conflict with your child’s other parent, despite an agreement or orders, you need legal assistance. At New Direction Family Law, we can help you sort through the child custody issues that are weighing on you and seek a resolution you can live with. You and your children deserve some peace of mind. Let us help you. We proudly serve Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us at our website.