North Carolina Divorce Lawyers Outline the Basics of Child Custody Hearings

/// 05/19/2010

When starting the process of determining child custody, the first issue is whether North Carolina has jurisdiction to determine the custodial rights of the parents.


Under North Carolina’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, (UCCJA) the court has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination if one or more of the following qualifications are met:


  1. North Carolina is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding or was the home state of the child within six months prior to the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from the state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to reside in the state
  2. A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under No. 1 above or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the grounds that North Carolina is a more appropriate forum and:
    1. The child and the child’s parents have a significant connection with North Carolina other than mere physical presence; and
    2. substantial evidence is available in North Carolina concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.
  3. All states having jurisdiction under No.’s 1 and 2 above have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that North Carolina is the more appropriate forum to determine custody of the child; or
  4. No other court of any state would have jurisdiction under the criteria set forth in No’s 1, 2 or 3 above.


In cases where a child is abused or threatened with abuse, a North Carolina court can exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in the state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, a sibling or parent of the child is subjected to or threatened  with mistreatment or abuse.


Once jurisdiction has been established to make an initial child custody determination, North Carolina law requires that if the issue of custody of a child is contested, the parents are required to appear for mediation of the dispute before the matter can be set for trial There are only a few exceptions to the mandatory mediation which requires a showing of good cause:


  • If allegations of abuse or neglect of the child arise;
  • If  there are allegations of alcoholism, drug abuse or domestic violence between the parents;
  • If allegations of severe psychological, psychiatric or emotional problems are present;
  • If the judge finds that mediation would result in “undue hardship” for a parent; or
  • If either parent lives more than 50 miles from the courthouse.


If no agreement is reached in mediation, or mediation is not an option in the child custody case, the issue of custody will be resolved by a judge whose decision will be based on the best interest of the child.


In making a custody decision, a judge will consider each parent’s ability to provide the child with a safe, nurturing environment; the child’s emotional attachment to each parent’s household; the physical and mental health of parents and child; and where the child is currently residing.


There is no presumption between the mother and father regarding which parent should have custody, although a natural parent will be presumed to be the appropriate custodian as opposed to a third party. This presumption is, however, rebuttable and, if the best interest of the child require it, the judge may award custody to a third party.


Gailor, Wallis & Hunt represents both mothers and fathers. The firm’s experienced attorneys can help with any custody dispute and work to ensure that the best interest of the child or children is served. GWH provides both services when it comes to child custody: mediation and litigation.


The North Carolina divorce attorneys of Gailor, Wallis and Hunt offer a holistic approach to custody disputes that seeks to resolve the dispute without the need for litigation, if at all possible. This approach utilizes the expertise of other professionals such as child psychologists, social workers and others who can address the physical, mental and developmental needs of the children involved in the custody dispute.


But when decisions about custody and visitation must be tried in a courtroom, the attorneys of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt are experienced and highly skilled in custody litigation that requires detailed investigation, preparation and presentation in court.


North Carolina divorce attorneys Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, have dedicated their lives to helping men and women work through the divorce process, and are knowledgeable and experienced in all of the issues relevant to child custody lawsuits. GWH offers knowledge, skill and experience in the many areas of family law that is second to none.



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