In our practice, we’ve discovered that it is incredibly common for separated parents to go without any sort of formal agreement or court order regarding custody or visitation. Instead, these parents will have some sort of informal, spoken or unspoken, understanding about where the children live and how visitation is supposed to work. For some parents, this works out.
Unbeknownst to these parents, they are taking a great risk. As family law attorneys, we have seen it all when it comes to child custody cases. The reason that informal arrangements are risky is that without any formal order or agreement, there is nothing in place to stop one parent from refusing to allow the other to see the child. On the other side of that coin, there is nothing that prevents the other parent from picking up and refusing to return a child to the other parent.
In other words, if something switches in the relationship of the parents and one parent refuses to abide by their informal agreement as to custody or visitation, law enforcement will not assist in setting things right. Instead, the only recourse a parent has at that point is to file a child custody lawsuit. Further, there is no guarantee that a hearing on the custody issue will occur quickly or that the court will see things your way.
Separation Agreements and Child Custody Orders Provide Certainty for Children
Instead of leaving matters to chance, many parents choose to enter into a separation agreement to address child custody and a parenting plan. So long as this agreement follows certain technical requirements and does not defy public policy, courts treat it as an enforceable legal contract. This means that failure to abide by the terms of the agreement will subject the noncompliant parent to a breach of contract lawsuit.
If parents cannot reach an agreement, then the only available choice becomes to file a child custody lawsuit to seek an order from a family court. If the matter goes to trial, the court will enter an order based on the best interest of the child regarding custody and visitation. Significantly, this order will specify the rights and duties of each parent, geographic restrictions on moving with the child, and a visitation schedule. This provides parents and the child a much-deserved sense of certainty and predictability.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that offers representation and guidance for child custody matters. Whether you are seeking an enforceable agreement, an initial order, or a modification of an existing order, our attorneys can help you. We have years of experience and will advocate for your legal rights. If you need legal help, contact our office today. We proudly serve parents in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law