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Why Would a Court Reject an Agreement?

In Child Custody, Child Support, Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

When it comes to family law matters that arise when couples decide to divorce—such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support—there are several scenarios in which a resolution can be reached. This includes: (1) abiding by an existing prenuptial or postnuptial agreement; (2) reaching a separation agreement; or (3) filing a lawsuit and asking a court to issue an order resolving the issues. Further, even when filing a lawsuit, the parties can reach an agreement for the court’s approval before the matter actually goes to trial. In North Carolina and across the country, it is far more common for couples to reach some form of agreement than to take issues to trial. This is because lawsuits and prolonged legal battles are incredibly expensive, as are the trials themselves. …

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Does My Gender Play a Role in a Best Interest Determination?

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

If you are a father interested in custody of your children, you may feel hopeless and that seeking custody is a lost cause. This is natural, as the concept of maternal preference in child custody proceedings, also known as the “tender years doctrine,” has existed since the nineteenth century. Under this doctrine of maternal gender preference, it was believed that children should be with their mother during their formative years (generally from age 0 to 4). In fact, these laws lasted well into the twentieth century in this country and until the 1970’s in North Carolina. The Best Interest of the Child Standard Does Not Give Gender Preference to Mothers In 1977, the state shifted to the “best interest of the child” standard, which makes no presumption about whether a …

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Are Mothers Given Custody Preference Over Fathers?

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

  When it comes to child custody matters, many people presume that mothers automatically get the children. In fact, many fathers feel discouraged or that fighting a custody proceeding is a lost cause because they won’t get a fair opportunity from the legal system to actually obtain custody of their children. While it is important to understand why there is some historic truth underlying this belief, it is equally important to understand that maternal preference is not the law. The “Tender Years” Doctrine Prior to the nineteenth century, the law in Britain automatically gave children to their fathers when parents divorced. This wasn’t based on the children’s best interest, but was more due to women’s lack of legal rights at the time. The law changed when Caroline Norton, a well-known …

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Advice for a Happy Mother’s Day

In Uncategorized by Sarah Hink

If you are separated from the mother of your child, Mother’s Day can be a very emotional day. You aren’t with your children, you are being excluded from a family celebration, and you have memories of when you all used to celebrate this occasion together. It is natural to have a lot of feelings on this specific day. As a single father on Mother’s Day, we would suggest that you heed the following advice. Most custody orders and agreements account for whom the children will spend holidays with. Mothers will get Mother’s Day, while fathers will get Father’s Day. It is important to abide by any custody agreement or order. Failure to abide by your agreement or orders can have serious long-term consequences. Understand that personal-issues aside, your children need …

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Relocation and Custody

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

Relocating a great distance with children is never an easy decision. You are essentially uprooting them from their home, their friends, their activities, and their schools. However, there may be compelling reasons to move, like a job opportunity someplace else, a new marriage, or a desire for a lifestyle change. On top of this, you have to consider the children’s other parent. In fact, child custody arrangements can become highly contested when one parent moves far away. This is because the other parent will very likely see the child less frequently, because both parents may not see eye-to-eye about what is best for the child, and because it can become expensive to make travel arrangements for visits to occur. When No Child Custody Orders Exist It is not entirely uncommon …

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Divorce and Easing Your Child’s Fears

In Parenting, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

No matter how old or mature your children, the prospect of their parents’ divorce is a terrifying and sad experience. Their source of security is splitting in two and big changes—both emotional and practical—are about to interrupt their life. In short, it is a life-changing trauma. As parents, we want to help our children process this trauma. That is why it is important to take a child-first approach to addressing your child’s fears: There is no perfect way to address your children’s fears. Try your best and be forgiving of yourself if some ideas don’t work out. Do not ignore the issue. Even if your child does not say anything and seems fine, do not take this as an indication that everything is ok. Raise the issue with them and …

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When is Supervised Visitation Appropriate?

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

North Carolina, as well as many states in this country, holds a presumption that when parents are separated, it is in a child’s best interest to have generous visitation with and access to both parents. This is to maintain and foster a continuing bond and relationship between them. However, this presumption of reasonable access can be overcome in circumstances when a court finds that this is contrary to the best interest of the child. In some cases, the court may order that visitation between a parent and child must be supervised. The courts in North Carolina are permitted to deny a parent “reasonable visitation”. North Carolina General Statutes 50-13.5(i) (Denial of Parental Visitation Right; Written Finding of Fact) states that “In any case in which an award of child custody …

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The Children’s Desires and Custody

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

Statistically speaking, it is relatively rare that child custody matters are actually put before a judge for a decision. This is because people know that taking a case to court is incredibly expensive and parties can often reach some kind of agreement that both parents can live with. Unfortunately, a case goes before a judge when the parents have drawn a line in the sand and are unwilling to budge on what they believe is best for their children. When this happens, North Carolina family courts are given broad discretion to make decisions in the best interest of the child. Best Interest Factors The best interest of the child is a concept that almost universally appears in jurisdictions nationwide in matters of child custody. It gives the court broad discretion …

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What Makes a Parent Unfit?

In Child Custody, Domestic Violence, Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

The significance of the parent-child relationship cannot be understated. Legally, it has constitutional dimensions and public policy in North Carolina and the country dictate that parents should generally have rights and ample access to their children. However, these rights and presumptions are not absolute. This is particularly salient in situations where a person has demonstrated himself or herself to be an unfit parent. Limiting a Parent’s Access to the Child In any custody determination, courts in North Carolina are required to enter orders that “promote the best interest and welfare of the child”. What this usually means is some form of ample custody, access, and visitation that promotes the continued parent child-relationship and bond. However, in reaching these decisions, the court also has the discretion to “consider all relevant factors …

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Separation with the Children in Mind

In Parenting, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

The experience of a separation can be very lonely. If you are in the process of a separation, what you are going through is a unique tragedy to you, and no other person in the world is experiencing exactly what you are. But while you grieve, it is also important to acknowledge that your children are at risk of complete emotional compromise. At New Direction Family Law, we have worked for more than two decades assisting people seeking separations and divorces, and we understand that the end of a marriage creates trauma for the entire family, including children. When separating, we hope that the following ideas may help you and your children stay on a healthy track toward the future. Consider individual therapy and other forms of self-care. While it …