North Carolina Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up a North Carolina visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
Creating a child visitation schedule is a mandatory part of the process of a child custody case in the State of North Carolina.
The law, found in the North Carolina General Statutes, (Chapter 50, Divorce and Alimony), and the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act), in unison with the court rules and North Carolina Case Law, provides parents with specific procedures and rules pertaining to child custody and visitation.
The law contains specific requirements, but also leaves a lot of the child custody process open to interpretation on a case by case, case specific basis. This is to ensure the individual needs of each child are being met, specific to their unique circumstances, rather than mandate a set schedule or arrangement for all children.
You can read more about various North Carolina custody laws in the sections below.
There are two ways of obtaining a court ordered child visitation schedule in the State of North Carolina:
- You may work together with the other parent and submit a parenting plan along with your proposed schedule to the court
- The court will make one for you if you are unable to reach an agreement on your own
If you want to retain control over your visitation schedule and your custody arrangements, you will need to work hard to reach an agreement with the other parent.
Sometimes, parents are able to reach an agreement on portions of a parenting plan or portions of a child visitation schedule, but they get stuck on certain parts and are unable to agree.
Mediation is a good way to resolve these problems. Mediation can be offered by or ordered by the court (G.S. § 50‑13.1.b).
A mediator is a neutral party that will work with both of you and help you decide on the issues you could not resolve on your own. Anything you say to the mediator when you attend mediation is confidential and will not be revealed to the court.
Mediation is offered to parents during their custody case throughout the state, and in some counties, such as Onslow County, mediation is mandatory.
If you are involved in a "high-conflict" case, where the hostility is so high that you are not able to work together and submit a plan, the court may order you to seek the assistance of a parenting coordinator (G.S. § 50‑91).
The parenting coordinator has the ability to make his or her own recommendation regarding the custody and visitation of your child to the court. If you are unable to create a parenting plan and child visitation schedule for your child, it will be decided for you.
The best interests of the child are considered to be paramount in the courts of North Carolina.
When deciding upon the functionality of a proposed parenting plan and child visitation schedule, or making an independent judgment for custody, the court will consider the following factors:
- The proposed parenting plan submitted by the parents and the desires of the parents as to custody
- The demeanor of the parents in court and whether or not they will be able to cooperate, communicate, and co-parent the child
- The likeliness of each parent to help foster a nurturing, loving, substantial relationship between the child and the other parent
- The likeliness of each parent to comply with the parenting plan and visitation schedule, once they are court ordered
- The ability of the parents to properly care for the child, provide the child with adequate food, shelter, and clothing, as well as an education
- The history of the care of the child and which parent has served as the child's primary caretaker
- Whether or not the child has siblings and/or other people of importance in the child's life, and the effect disrupting any established relationships would have on the child
- The child's adjustment to his home, school, and community
- The proximity of the parent's homes to each other and to the child's school
- Any evidence of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
- Any other factors the court may deem relevant
There are basically three parts that are essential to a successful custody and visitation schedule.
A regular residential schedule:
- This schedule will determine where the child lives and will specify the days and times the child will spend with each parent, on a regular basis.
- The "every other weekend" schedule is often ordered by the court as a last resort, but parents are free to create the child visitation schedule as they feel will best benefit the child.
A holiday schedule:
- This schedule should provide your child equitable time with each parent on holidays and special occasions.
- The holiday schedule takes priority over the residential schedule.
- It is important to be as specific as possible with the holiday schedule, including starting and ending times for the holidays.
A vacation schedule:
- This can be an actual set schedule, or it may be comprised of provisions for vacation time with the child.
- School breaks, summer vacations, and the parents' personal vacation time should be included so that the child is able to spend extended time with each parent for vacations.
- You may want to include provisions in the schedule, such as how much advanced notice a vacationing parent must give the other one or anything else you think will be relevant.
In North Carolina, your custody order can have information about visitation rights by electronic communication.
Electronic communication is contact other than in person that is facilitated by electronic means. This includes contact by telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, video teleconferencing, wired or wireless technologies by Internet, and other medium of communication.
This type of communication supplements visitation but cannot be used as a replacement (this means that both parents still have parenting time where they physically have the child, but you can also have provisions about how you will utilize communication through technology).
Also, electronic visitation does not impact child support at all.
If you want to include visitation by electronic communication, you should consider the following:
- If electronic communication is in the best interest of your child
- If the equipment for this type of communication is available, accessible, and affordable to both parents
- How parents will allocate the costs between the parents in implementing and paying for the communication
- How parents will share access information between each other in order for the child to have electronic communication
Parents are not the only people able to seek visitation rights to a child.
Grandparents may request visitation with the child if certain criteria are met.
Grandparents of a child adopted by a step-parent or other relative may file for visitation rights to the child provided a relationship has been previously established and the child would benefit from such contact.
However, under no circumstances will a grandparent be granted visitation rights to a child adopted by non-related persons when both natural parents have terminated parental rights (G.S. § 50‑13.2A).
If a grandparent is allowed visitation rights to a child, you may want to include those times in the child visitation schedule, as well.
The top twenty cities in North Carolina (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Cary, High Point, Wilmington, Greenville, Jacksonville, Asheville, Gastonia, Concord, Rocky Mount, Chapel Hill, Burlington, Wilson, Huntersville, Kannapolis.