Interstate custody matters in North Carolina are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA is a law adopted by most states in the United States, including North Carolina, to provide a framework for resolving custody disputes that involve multiple states. Under the UCCJEA, North Carolina has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination if:
1. North Carolina is the child’s home state, meaning the child has lived in North Carolina with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months before the custody proceedings, or since birth, if the child is younger than six months old.
2. If North Carolina is not the child’s home state, but the child has significant connections with the state, such as close family members or friends, and substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships is available in North Carolina.
3. If no other state has jurisdiction or if the home state or significant connections jurisdiction declines to exercise jurisdiction, North Carolina can assume jurisdiction if it is in the best interests of the child.
In cases where multiple states could have jurisdiction, the UCCJEA provides mechanisms to determine which state has the authority to make custody determinations. It aims to prevent conflicting custody orders and promote cooperation among states in enforcing custody orders. If a custody order has been issued in another state, North Carolina will generally recognize and enforce that order as long as it complies with the UCCJEA and other applicable laws.
Once it is decided North Carolina has jurisdiction and that North Carolina laws apply, the determination of child custody is guided by the best interests of the child. The court considers several factors when making custody decisions. Common factors that may be considered in custody determinations in North Carolina include:
Child’s well-being: The court’s primary consideration is the child’s overall well-being, including their physical, emotional, and mental health. The court will assess which custody arrangement will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness.
Parent-child relationship: The court will evaluate the quality of the relationship between each parent and the child. Factors such as the level of involvement, bonding, and the ability to meet the child’s needs may be considered.
Parental ability and fitness: The court will assess each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs. Factors such as parenting skills, stability, employment status, and history of domestic violence or substance abuse may be taken into account.
Child’s preference: If the child is of sufficient age and maturity, the court may consider their preference regarding custody. The weight given to the child’s preference will depend on their age, understanding, and the circumstances of the case.
Co-parenting willingness: The court may evaluate each parent’s willingness to facilitate a healthy and ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent. Cooperative and effective co-parenting is generally viewed favorably.
Geographic proximity: The court may consider the proximity of each parent’s residence and how it may impact the child’s stability, schooling, and access to extended family and support systems.
Sibling relationships: The court may consider the importance of maintaining sibling relationships and whether separating siblings would be detrimental to their well-being.
Past involvement and care: The court may assess each parent’s historical involvement in the child’s life, including caregiving responsibilities, prior custody arrangements, and any disruptions to the child’s routine.
It’s important to note that these factors are not exhaustive, and the specific circumstances of each case will influence the court’s decision. Additionally, custody determinations can vary based on the judge’s discretion and the unique facts presented during the proceedings.
Having an advocate on your side, knowing the applicable laws, and being prepared for the different potential outcomes of a custody case are of key importance for everyone involved. At King Law, our experienced Family Law attorneys understand how to best advocate for you and your child’s interests. Our goal is to help you through this process, listen to your concerns, and get the best possible outcome for you and your child. Contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.