Child Custody Attorney in Raleigh
Unique, Specialized Strategies Informed by Over 25 Years of Experience
Vitale Family Law has over 25 years of professional experience representing families throughout Raleigh, Wake County and the surrounding areas in family matters like child custody. Our firm seeks to provide personalized attention to all our clients, especially when they are navigating concerns as serious and complex as child custody. Vitale Family Law specializes in family legal matters and will put our 25 years of experience to use as we develop unique strategies for you to negotiate your and your child’s best interests in the mediation room and the courtroom.
Types of Custody
Child custody includes time spent with each parent as well as the right for parents to make major life decisions about their child following separation. Visitation is a secondary form of custody, which includes the right to spend time with a child at times set forth in a court. Custody and visitation orders last until the child becomes a legal adult at age 18, after which the courts no longer have the authority to enforce an order.
The main types of custody are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about the child’s life, like educational and medical concerns, and physical custody means the right to have the child in their physical care, either all the time or part of the time. Both legal and physical custody can be either shared by the parents jointly or held solely by one parent. A joint physical custody arrangement can look different, depending on the circumstances. In one situation, a parent may have primary physical custody where the child lives with them most of the time and the child goes to live with the other parent every other weekend. In other situations, parents with joint physical custody may decide on an equal split in which the child lives alternately with each on a regular basis.
North Carolina law also recognizes emergency custody orders, sometimes referred to as “ex parte orders,” which are immediate, short-term custody orders that a judge can grant under emergency circumstances without hearing from the other party. The grounds for granting emergency custody could be if a child is at a substantial risk of bodily injury, sexual abuse, or removal from North Carolina for the purpose of avoiding the authority of the courts. If an emergency custody order is granted, a hearing must be scheduled so that both parties have the opportunity to be heard. This process can be complicated, so it is best to have an attorney present for legal support.
Note that if there is no custody order following a divorce, both legal parents have equal rights to their child.
Filing for Custody
Any parent can file for custody, and third parties like grandparents, relatives, or others who have cared for the child can file for custody or visitation under some circumstances. Grandparents may also be awarded visitation in some circumstances when there is a custody case between the parents.
To begin a petition for child custody, a parent must file a Complaint in the county where the child or the parent resides, after which they must serve the Summons and Complaint to the other parent through a sheriff or certified mail. Generally, before a judge can hear the case, they will send the parents to custody mediation to negotiate a plan. If the parents are unable to agree on a custody and visitation plan in mediation, a judge will then hear their case to make a decision for them. Judges will decide child custody based on “the best interests of the child,” which can include many factors, such as:
- the parents’ living arrangements and location;
- each parent’s ability to care for the child;
- the child’s relationship with each parent; and
- any other factors affecting the welfare of the child.
Modifications & Enforcement
It is possible to modify a permanent order under certain circumstances. If a parent seeks to revise an existing custody order, they must file a Motion to Modify, where they must allege and prove in court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was entered, and that those changes are affecting the child in a way that requires the old order to be changed to address the child’s best interests.
A judge also has the authority to enforce an order if the other parent is not complying with the terms. A parent can file a Motion for Order to Show Cause or Motion for Contempt to ask the judge to hold the other parent in contempt of court for violating an existing custody order. If the judge finds that the other parent did violate the order, the judge will decide the appropriate penalty, which can include a verbal reprimand, fines, jail time, or payment of the requesting parent’s attorney’s fees.
Contact Vitale Family Law for Sensible Legal Support
If you are currently involved in a custody battle in Raleigh, North Carolina, Wake County, or the surrounding area, do not hesitate to seek legal support from a child custody lawyer. Custody disputes, whether in mediation or in trial, can be difficult to navigate, and an attorney can help you assert your interests as a parent. Vitale Family Law has years of professional, specialized experience in family legal matters including child custody, so you can trust that the firm will handle your custody case with the care, attention, and priority it deserves.
When You Hire Our Firm, You Hire Our Entire Team
Attorneys Lori & Kim are Board Certified Specialists in Family Law
Over 50 Years of Combined Experience in Family Law
Exclusive & Intentional Focus on Family Law