Unfortunately, if you are divorced or separated from your significant other and you don’t have a written agreement regarding custody, you open yourself up for more disputes. Without a written document, a parent can change the custodial arrangement by moving the residence of a child. One parent is free to move to a different county or state with the child without any repercussions, as long as they’re not avoiding the jurisdiction of the court and they have no controlling written document outlining the custodial arrangement for the children. It’s best for all parties involved, especially the child(ren), to determine a custodial arrangement with legal counsel.
In North Carolina, a couple may settle custodial arrangements privately or out of the courts. However, if you forgo a controlling written document outlining the child custody arrangements, then you run the risk of the arrangement being changed at the drop of a dime. And if the child custody case goes to the court, you need to be able to prove that your home environment is the best for the child. The judge chooses custody rights based on which is in the child’s best interest and well-being.
When a stepparent requests custody of a child, they must first demonstrate standing for the request. This means that you must have a good reason for requesting custody of a child that is not your blood relative. The process is complex and requires legal counsel to be taken seriously in the courtroom. An example would be a long-term couple that broke up but lived together with the boyfriend’s daughter. Her biological mother is not involved and the girlfriend requests custody. If she can prove she has standing, meaning she could prove that she handled most of the child’s special medical care, for instance, then she could win custody of the child.
Grandparents only have rights to a child in two cases: if both parents are unfit to care for the child (because of death, addiction, unstable mental state, or disability) or when both parents of the child are in a custody dispute with the court. For the first instance, grandparents can bring the situation that makes the parents unfit to the attention of the court and request custody. In the second case, they can only request visitation if they are being denied time with their grandchildren during the custody proceedings.
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