There is much misinformation that circulates regarding the issue of fathers’ rights. Many fathers beginning the separation process are often terrified of what will happen in the custody process. Horror stories of dads losing custody of their children through seemingly no fault of their own are readily available on the internet, with whole sites dedicated to them. Are these fears realistic? What does the law say in North Carolina? Read on to discover some real information on this topic.
Custody and Fathers Rights
First, there are two types of custody in a child custody case. There is physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody concerns where the children are and who they are with. Legal custody concerns the right to make major decisions about the child or children, like medical care and educational issues.
If parents can agree on custody issues, they can include in their separation agreement or co-parenting order that they will share legal custody or have joint legal custody. Joint legal custody is the norm these days. That means that parents will reach a joint, mutual decision about public or private school. They will make joint decisions regarding when the child will get braces, if needed, and joint decisions about extracurricular activities. If the parents can’t agree, they always have the option of asking the court to intervene. The court is mandated to rule in the child’s best interest, and by definition it is in a child’s best interest to spend at least some time with both of their parents.
Physical custody concerns where the child is living and who they are spending their time with. Many people assume that the mother is favored here. But, over the past several years, the courts have been progressive in awarding more 50/50 joint time decisions. Both parents are entitled to have time with their children. Studies support that the more time children have with both parents, there will be an increase in the child’s self-esteem, school grades, and social growth. We should always advocate for what is in the child’s best interests and the courts by law are required to do so as well. Thus, North Carolina state law very much recognizes the rights of fathers.
Settlement and agreeing on child custody issues is always preferred. When proposing a physical custody schedule, there are many factors to consider. The closer the parents live to each other, the easier a 50/50 split physical custody schedule will work. Many parents are agreeing to a week on, week off schedule, or an alternating 2-2-3 schedule. These scenarios work well if the parties live in the same school district and if the parents’ work schedules permit.
When 50/50 Custody Is Not Possible
If a true 50/50 schedule will not work, there are ways that a parent can have more physical time with the children. A visitation schedule can be very helpful in this regard. One parent could transport the children to and from school every day to have some time with the children, even if they will sleep at one parent’s house every night. For instance, if a father for some reason doesn’t live in a stable home that is accessible to his children, such as if he frequently travels for work and often needs to spend nights in hotels at the drop of a hat, a custody agreement could discern that such a father could instead take his children to dinner a few nights a week or arrange for him to spend time with them on days off or holidays.
It is important to have a good understanding of the children’s school calendar, noting holidays, teacher workdays, and breaks. School breaks and holidays can give a parent an opportunity to have quality time with his children.
An effective planning tool is for parents to utilize a family time app on their phones that can allow a school calendar to be uploaded so that the parents can easily see school time and plan accordingly. Extracurricular activities can be uploaded as well so that both parents can attend practices, games, and events. Parents can also share time taking the children to the doctor or dentist. Both parents should be involved with teacher meetings and school related activities. If you need an app, you can try out our Custody Calendar for parents to coordinate their schedules and discuss updates with each other.
Parents can agree to have a “right to babysit” type clause in their separation agreement. If the custodial parent needs a sitter, the other parent gets the right of first refusal so to speak to watch the child.
Parents should take advantage of technology as well. It is easy to face time or zoom with child. It might not be the same quality time as actually being in the same room or house, but it is becoming a popular method of communicating.
The court system is embracing more ways to increase a parent’s involvement in their children’s lives, parents should embrace those changes as well. Both parents should always be thinking about what is in the child’s best interests, and as such good and willing fathers will always have a right to their children in the eyes of North Carolina custody courts.