Understanding “Good Faith”

In Child Custody, Child Support, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Family court judges in North Carolina take their jobs incredibly seriously. For example, nothing keeps judges up at night to the degree that child custody decisions do. This is because judges are tasked with making huge, lasting decisions that impact the happiness, stability, and safety of children. In addition, judges understand that decisions about divorce, property division, alimony, and child support can have an enormous impact on the future of everyone involved. ??

In fact, courts have the sole discretion to determine whether a witness is credible. If a court finds that a person lacks credibility, then this can have highly damaging ramifications on that person’s legal outcome. The court can essentially choose to disbelieve all of an untrustworthy person’s testimony. This is one of the reasons that people must operate in “good faith”.

What is Good Faith?

The Supreme Court of North Carolina has defined good faith as “honesty of intention, and freedom from knowledge of circumstances which ought to put [one] upon inquiry” that a claim is frivolous. In other words, a person is required to proceed with a sincere and honest intention. This comes into play in various ways regarding divorce and child custody matters. Specifically, North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 50 mandates good faith when it comes to child custody matters, certain attorneys fees, and collaborative law.

Child Custody Matters

First, it should be noted that most parenting agreements are reached by an agreement of the parties. This is in the best interest of children as parents should be able to co-parent harmoniously and not as a result of a court telling them to do something. General Statute § 50-13.01 requires that these be good faith agreements, stating that: “It is the policy of the State of North Carolina to: Encourage focused, good faith, and child-centered parenting agreements to reduce needless litigation over child custody matters and to promote the best interest of the child.”

Attorney’s Fees

Good faith is also an element when a person seeks attorney’s fees in a child support or custody proceeding. The law recognizes that many people do not have a lot of money to spend on attorney’s fees, especially people who are seeking child support, child custody, or some modification of a prior order. General Statute § 50-13.6 states that “the court may in its discretion order payment of reasonable attorney’s fees to an interested party acting in good faith who has insufficient means to defray the expense of the suit.”

In short, if a person with “insufficient means” to afford a lawsuit is seeking custody, child support, or a modification of custody or support, the court may order the other party to pay attorney’s fees so long as the person has acted in good faith.

Collaborative Law—Separation and Divorce

Much like with child custody, there is a strong public policy that couples seeking a divorce attempt to reach an agreement regarding disputes. This may include divorce, property division, and alimony. Before filing a lawsuit or before taking these matters to trial, spouses are expected to attempt to resolve their disputes through “collaborative law”. In these negotiations, parties are required by law to “use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their disputes arising from the marital relationship on an agreed basis”.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law serves people who need assistance with separation, divorce, property division, alimony, child custody, and child support matters. You have legal rights and need an advocate to guide you toward a resolution. We take our duties very seriously, work hard, and pride ourselves in operating with integrity. Our team practices in Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.