Answering Frequent Custody And Visitation Questions
At Tickle Law Office, you will always find a helping hand dealing with your custody matter. Attorney Lawrence Tickle (or “Tickle” as his clients like to call him) prides himself in helping moms and dads from all walks of life with their children. Tickle can jump into your case in the middle or he can be there with you from the very beginning. For your convenience, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q. As a father, will I only get every other weekend?
A. Maybe. The judges like to keep a stable environment in children’s lives. This is why, it is important from the beginning as a father to ensure you are getting as much visitation as possible with your child or children. As a mother, it is important that you do not withhold visitation or custody from the father so that the judge does not see you as spiteful.
Q. What’s the difference between custody and visitation?
A. Nothing, really. In dealing with a custody case, you have two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody is the parents’ right to make decisions in the child’s life. Physical custody is who has physical possession of the child. You also sometimes have primary and secondary custody, with secondary often being referred to as visitation. Some circumstances may be appropriate where one parent does not get any custody and only gets supervised visitation, but those circumstances generally happen by agreement or because one parent may be a threat to the child.
Q. What if I don’t want the other parent to have any visitation?
A. We’re sorry, but unless the other parent has done something so bad that it merits terminating his or her parental rights, the U.S. Constitution provides that the other parent must at least get some type of custody even if it is supervised visitation. However, some parents may consent to this type of arrangement.
Q. How long does a custody case take?
A. This depends on the people involved. Some couples can finish their case in as long as a month, while other cases may take months or even years.
Q. What happens after I file for custody?
A. After custody is filed, the other parent needs to be served. They have 60 days to be served, then 30 days to respond to the complaint. Once the 30 days are up or they have responded, you may have to go to mediation. Most counties require mediation in the Triangle. Some counties will provide it complimentarily such as Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties, while other counties may require you to pay for it such as Wake County. If you or the other parent lives more than 50 miles from the courthouse, or there are any other serious problems with the other parent, mediation may be waived but only after a judge has signed the order waiving mediation. If you settle the case at mediation, the judge will sign the order, and you move on. If you do not, the case will need to be calendared and heard before a judge. Here, discovery will proceed and if not already, a temporary custody order can be entered.
Q. What about grandparents or other relatives? Can they file for custody?
A. Yes and no. If the family is intact, meaning the parents are married and living together, no. If the family has broken up, there are two options for grandparents. A grandparent may sue for visitation under some circumstances as provided by law. Also, if the grandparent or relative has created some type of parental-like relationship with the child or children, and the parent has done something to act inconsistently with their constitutional right as a parent, then that person may have standing to sue for custody. This is a tough situation and definitely merits having a lawyer.
Q. What if the other parent won’t let me see my kids?
A. If there is an order in place and the other parent is not abiding by the order, then the judge can hold that parent in contempt to let you see your kids. Usually, the penalty is nothing more than “don’t do it again” and maybe to pay court costs, but if they keep it up, the penalties can increase to actual jail time.
Q. What if there is no custody order?
A. If there is no custody order in place, then there is nothing to abide by. You are not obligated to what the other parent dictates. If you are in the beginning stages of custody, it is important that you spend as much time with your children as possible. Do not be fooled by threats to call the police as all they will tell you is, “this is a civil matter, and you need to file a complaint for custody.” We’ve even had police tell our clients with orders in place that it was not their position to enforce the order. The most important thing we can tell you right now is do not take the other parent’s word as law.
Q. What if the other parent has my child but will not give him back?
A. In situations like this it may be appropriate for an ex parte custody order. This is an extreme action to take and is very time-intensive. The law allows this when the noncustodial parent will not return the child to the status quo, or when the child is subject to a risk of serious bodily harm or sexual assault, or the other parent is fleeing the state with the child to avoid the state’s jurisdiction. If the judge grants one of these orders, law enforcement will assist in retrieving the child and a hearing will be set within seven days on the order. We are very proficient in these types of cases as well, having successfully used our advocacy and the FBI in the past while dealing with less-than-cooperative, out-of-state personnel.
Q. What if I have a criminal record? Can I still get custody?
A. Yes. The types of crimes may be relevant but unless you are a threat to the child, you are still entitled to some type of custody.