When couples that have children separate, there is a wide spectrum of how they are able to co-exist and co-parent. Some parents may fight tooth and nail over child custody. Other parents are able to reach informal, verbal agreements that provide ample parenting time and works out great. Unfortunately, no matter how civil and amicable your relationship with your ex, there are compelling legal and practical reasons to obtain child custody orders.
Custody orders are enforceable and provide protection. Without custody orders, anything goes. Either parent can come and go with the child as they please since there is no order for law enforcement or courts to hold the other parent accountable. So if an amicable co-parenting relationship suddenly turns, there is no safety net in place to stop a parent from leaving with the child. While the aggrieved parent can hire an attorney to seek temporary custody orders, there is little the parent can do in the short term until such order is entered.
In contrast, with a valid child custody order, law enforcement and other North Carolina courts are required to uphold the order. And even more importantly, under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), courts of other states are also expected to honor and enforce valid custody orders from our state. The same is true of federal and state parental kidnapping laws, which provide an additional layer of accountability and protection for custodial parents.
Custody orders provide certainty. Children need stability when their parents are separated. Structure and routine are necessary for a child to feel trust and security when their family system has been split. Child custody orders establish the who’s, where, and when of their custody, their living arrangements, and their visitation schedule. These orders also provide much needed restrictions on each party, as well as the avenue in which conflicts are to be resolved.
Custody orders and child custody agreements are not the same thing. While parents are encouraged to reach agreements regarding child custody, it is important to understand that a verbal agreement has no legal value. A custody agreement has to be in writing to be enforceable as a contract. However, even a written agreement is not enforceable as a custody order unless it is actually approved by a court in the form of a signed consent order. It is important to consult with an attorney to ensure that you have a fully enforceable order.
New Direction Family Law
We understand how important your children are to you. If you have no custody order or want to change a child custody order, let us help you. At New Direction Family Law we provide thoughtful, comprehensive legal representation. Our office serves clients in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law