When it comes to child custody and parenting time, family courts in North Carolina must consider the best interest of children. As part of this best interest consideration, public policy dictates that children should have continued contact with their parents. Therefore, courts will generally approve or enter orders that allow children to have ample visitation and access with both parents.
There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. When a court has concerns about a parent’s fitness, it has the discretion to limit or restrict a parent’s custody and parenting time with a child. These concerns may be based upon a history of physical or emotional abuse of the child, neglect, child abandonment, substance abuse, family violence, or certain types of criminal offenses. In short, a court will limit access if it believes that a parent poses a physical or emotional risk to the child.
Further, these restrictions may include ordering that visitation must be supervised by a third party, such as a designated relative, kids exchange facility, or even by a professional like a therapist. In cases of extreme misconduct, a court may restrict parenting time entirely or even terminate parental rights.
If you have had your custody or parenting time limited, know that it can get better. Courts have the authority to modify child custody orders. In order to obtain a modification, the party seeking the change must demonstrate that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the original order or parenting plan was entered. The party must also demonstrate that the proposed change in custody and parenting time is in the child’s best interest.
When making a determination regarding modification, we have found that courts appreciate if the parents have taken active efforts to improve their parenting ability or to address the areas of their lives that caused concerns. This may include:
- The parent attended and made progress in therapy;
- The parent has received proper mental health treatment and has followed all treatment recommendations, which may include medications;
- The parent completed parenting classes;
- The parent completed some form of batterer’s intervention program (BIP);
- The parent has demonstrated stable housing and employment;
- The parent has completed treatment for substance abuse and has demonstrated some continued measure of sobriety; or
- A positive recommendation from the child’s therapist;
In other words, if a parent is willing to take a hard, honest look at themselves, and are willing to make improvements, this will go a long way with the court.
New Direction Family Law
You want to serve your children’s best interest and so do we. At New Direction Family Law, we provide legal representation to clients regarding agreed parenting plans, child custody orders, and child custody modifications. Our legal team will listen to you, review your case, and provide vocal representation to make sure that your voice is heard. We work in Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or reach us online.