North Carolina Child Custody Myths

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

Child custody disputes can be complicated and stressful. One way of feeling more confident, however, is to become well-informed about how child custody works in North Carolina. A big part of this process is learning about myths and misconceptions that can lead parents to making bad decisions.

Myth 1: Fathers Don’t Get Custody of Children

We must first dispel the biggest myth in child custody: that fathers do not get custody of their children. This is completely untrue. This misconception derives from the century old “maternal preference” that countries used to implement—which presumed that children should be with their mothers during their tender (early) years. North Carolina did away with maternal preference decades ago in favor of the best interest of a child standard.

So instead of presuming that a mother is a more appropriate custodian of a child than a father, courts now make no such presumption and instead look at the totality of a child’s situation and the child’s or children’s best interest. Some of the factors that courts have considered include: (1) the parenting abilities of each parent; (2) the emotional, physical, educational, and medical needs of the child; (3) any indication of parental unfitness; (4) the parenting roles and caretaking duties of the parents; (5) the work demands of the parents; (6) the stability of each home; (7) the plans of the parents; and (8) the child’s desires.

Therefore, it is not uncommon for fathers to be awarded joint or sole custody of their children.

Myth 2: A Father’s Failure to Pay Child Support Justifies Withholding Visitation

Another common misconception is that a mother can withhold visitation from a father who is late paying child support. While this actually happens in real life, the mother is likely violating the court order in doing so. This is because child custody and child support are two completely different legal issues—failure to comply with one order does not justify withholding the other.

If you have been late in paying child support, then the proper remedy is for the child’s mother to inform the child support court and to seek arrearages or penalties. And on the other side, if your child’s mother is withholding visitation from you, then your remedy is to bring the matter to the court to seek enforcement or contempt.

Myth 3: Children Get the Final Say in Custody Determinations

While it is true that children have the right to express their desires to the court, and that the court should consider the children’s desires, a court is not bound by these desires. In other words, even if your child clearly states a preference of where to live, a court still looks at the best interest of the child, which encompasses a much broader view of the child’s circumstances and future.

New Direction Family Law

If you are a father and are interested in child custody or visitation, contact New Direction Family Law. Remember that there is no maternal presumption and that you have just as much legal right to seek custody as the children’s mother. Our attorneys understand this and want to make sure that your voice is heard. Let us assist you. Our legal team serves Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us through our website.