After reflection, NCGS 50-13.01 appears to be the first baby step in NC to join many other states looking to create a hard presumption of equal or joint custody when both parents are capable of sharing that responsibility. Whether 50/50 custody is a realistic possibility in your case mainly depends on what county you live in and what Judge is assigned to your case. To some counties and Judges they approach any custody dispute with a predefined idea of what “best interest” means. Some judges favor joint custody and some do not consider 50/50 custody a viable option. No matter if you are a mother or father the prospect of a judge given essentially unchecked power to decide your rights to your child is a frightening idea.
What does it mean to have 50 50 custody?
Equal custody means different things to different people. The two types of custody are physical and legal custody. The difference between physical and legal custody in NC is that legal custody goes to who can make decisions affecting the health and welfare of the child whereas physical custody goes to where the child lives and sleeps at night. A true 50-50 custody generally means the parents share joint legal and joint physical custody meaning no major decision can be made except by agreement and the minor child spends an equal amount of time or overnights with each parent.
Chances of father getting 50 50 custody in NC
There appears to be 3 main factors impacting when a father wins 50/50 custody in NC.
A father has his best chance of getting 50 50 custody when he was actively involved in the child’s life both before and after separation. In the rare case of the stay at home dad this means he either took the child to school each morning or saw the child safely on the school bus. He made and drove the child to doctor appointments on a regular basis. He attended school open house and met with teachers regarding progress reports. He read to the child when younger and assisted the child with homework on a nightly basis. He helped make dinners and selected the majority of the child’s clothing at the store. Although the stay at home dad scenario puts a father in the best scenario to be awarded full or joint custody it is not a requirement. In addition, the status quo the parties were operating under immediately after separating and when they enter court is important. If the parties have already established a pattern of equal time with both parents and the children are doing well in school then some judges are inclined to leave that arrangement in place.
The second key factor is what county the case is heard in. Larger urban counties in general appear much more inclined to have adopted the modern approach of joint custody whereas smaller rural counties often still employ the "home base" model where it is favored to award one parent primary custody so the minor child sees one house as home. When the parties live in different counties this can become an important consideration in who files for custody first as venue is proper where either parent lives and changing venue is in the discretion of the Judge.
The third major factor is simply your Judge. The NC legislature has essentially given the local trial Judge exclusive unchecked power to award custody as they see fit because the “best interest” standard is so broad it means whatever a Judge wants it to mean. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly means the law is applied very differently by different judges.
Chances of mother getting 50 50 custody in NC
Mothers often have the advantage in custody court because they generally are the primary caregiver of minor children both before and after the parents separate. More often than not a father has never taken the child to the doctor nor ever been to the school to meet the teacher for open house or parent teacher conferences. Although ever case presents a unique set of facts and there is no presumption under the law for mothers the perception of hopelessness and societal pressure often leads fathers to not fight for custody as hard as a mother.
Is North Carolina a mother state?
There is no legal presumption favoring either the mother or father in custody court under North Carolina law. That being said, many Judges tend to view mothers and fathers differently especially when it comes to younger children.
Does Mecklenburg County NC give 50 50 custody?
As a large urban area Mecklenburg County Judges have embraced the shared custody ideal where both parents have the right to play a significant role in raising their children. When feasible, a week on/week off schedule is often ordered allowing each parent equal time with their minor children.
Does Union County NC give 50 50 custody?
Although Union County and Mecklenburg County are right next to each other and they follow the same “best interest” standard under NC Statute the law is applied very differently. Union County Judges rarely award 50/50 custody. That is not to say they never award 50/50 custody, but it is certainly not the norm. Instead often one parent is awarded primary physical custody and the other parent is granted visitation every other weekend and dinner on their off week. Often the non-custodial parent is lucky just to get 3 overnights every other week and more than 3 weeks each summer. As the father often ends up as the non-custodial parent this has led to fathers rights advocacy groups attempting to push for a presumption of joint physical custody.
Father wants 50/50 custody in North Carolina
A father often faces an uphill battle seeking 50/50 custody in North Carolina because often father delegate the child raising responsibilities during the relationship to the mother. Fathers also often have a more demanding job that requires them to work hours that are not conducive to being at home when a child gets off the bus. Whether a father can demonstrate that a 50/50 arrangement is in the “best interest” of the minor child is determined on a case by case basis.
Does my EX have a chance of winning 50/50 custody?
Under NC law if either parent requests joint custody then a Judge is supposed to consider whether such an arrangement would “best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” Every case is unique and a local attorney would be able to best give advice on whether the local judges are truly open to 50/50 custody.
Can a Judge grant 50/50 custody of an infant?
A Judge can grant 50/50 custody even of an infant, although the time it takes to get into court often means the child is no longer a newborn. Some judges will even order a mother to provide bottled breastmilk to the father so the child does not lose out on that benefit.
50/50 custody requirements in NC
There are no mandatory requirements to be granted a 50/50 custody order. Practically speaking the proximity of both parents to each other for school age children is likely the main pre-condition. If two parents live 2 hours apart then 50/50 custody is never going to work for a child in school. Under NC law if either party requests joint custody then the judge is required to consider it. That being said, if your judge is pre-disposed against 50/50 custody there may be little to no hope.
50 50 custody schedule in NC
Parties are free to agree to whatever crazy schedule they want, but court orders usually require a fixed schedule for consistency and enforceability. Every schedule has its pros and cons, but generally speaking school is a main factor in trying to construct any long term plan. Some of the main types of 50/50 schedules a judge can order are as follows:
Nesting custody agreements
A nesting agreement refers to when the children stay in the marital home and the parents shuttle back and forth. This arrangement provides stability for the children during the initial separation, but is rarely a viable long term solution. Success with this scenario generally only works when the parents trust each other and get along as it requires cooperation to share living space and finances associated with paying a mortgage and utilities, not to mention household maintenance and potential privacy concerns.
When is 50/50 custody awarded?
There are no guidelines where 50/50 custody is automatically awarded but some of the main factors judges seem to consider are as follows:
How often does a judge grant 50/50 custody in NC?
There is certainly a trend underway across the nation and North Carolina towards joint custody. That being said there is no raw data on how often a true 50/50 is awarded in NC after a contested custody hearing. Large urban counties such as Mecklenburg County have an almost unspoken rule that keeping both parents equally involved in preferred when feasible, whereas rural counties often seem to favor one parent (usually the mother) being awarded primary physical custody.
Do you still have to pay child support if you have 50 50 custody in NC?
Just because there is 50/50 custody does not mean child support may not still be awarded. Joint physical custody child support is determined via Worksheet B of the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. When both parents have an equal number of overnights then the other factors such as relative income and who pays for health insurance and daycare largely determine whether child support is appropriate. If the parties make similar income and roughly share equally in the expenses for the minor children then often there is no award for child support.
Does NC have 50 50 custody?
Judges in North Carolina certainly have the authority to order 50/50 custody, but are under no mandate or direction to do so. In fact many Judges simply do not give joint custody as they believe that it is more important for a child to feel like they have the stability of one home.
Is joint custody 50 50?
Joint custody does not necessarily mean 50/50 custody. In fact, joint legal custody is often awarded to fathers who only have their children every other weekend. A true 50/50 custody order usually refers to the minor children spending an equal number of overnights with each parent.
Benefits of 50/50 custody
The main benefit of 50/50 custody is neither parent feels inferior to the other. When children spend equal time with each parent they don’t feel like one parent loves them more and it gives each parent an opportunity to pass along their life skills and values as they see fit.
Negative effects of 50/50 custody
The main downside of 50/50 custody is it usually involves children being shuttled back and forth between two homes. Kids can sometimes feel like they are packing for vacation with each transition. School books and clothes will invariable get left behind and sometimes kids rebel against the chaos of this arrangement when they become teenagers.
How to prevent 50/50 custody
A true 50/50 custody usually requires both parents to live close enough to get kids to school on time each morning without having to set an alarm clock for 5:00 am. If parents live too far apart this becomes almost impossible and too much of a burden. In essence, by living far enough away from the other parent it makes 50/50 less likely to be awarded by a Judge. Just be aware that could mean the other parent ends up with primary custody!