Non-custodial parents generally have visitation rights under North Carolina law that allow them to spend time with their children. If a non-custodial parent would like a court order for scheduled visitation, the two parents may negotiate the terms, or the court can determine an appropriate arrangement. North Carolina parents who want to enforce their visitation rights may find help through local court programs that serve parents in custody disputes.
Legal Significance of Visitation Rights
Under North Carolina law, one parent may have sole legal and physical custody of a child. Alternatively, both parents can share joint legal custody, but the child lives primarily with one parent who has physical custody. The parent who does not provide the child's primary residence is the non-custodial parent and generally has visitation rights. When a non-custodial parent has visitation rights through a court order in a custody case or divorce, North Carolina law requires the court to consider many factors when setting the child's visitation schedule. These factors include the child's school schedule and activities, the child's age, the availability of each parent and the distance between the two homes.
Types of Visitation Arrangements
According to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, a non-custodial parent with parental rights is automatically eligible for visits with the child every other weekend. If the non-custodial parent would like additional time, however, he must reach an agreement with the parent who has primary physical custody. If the two parents cannot agree to more visitation, the non-custodial parent may file a visitation complaint with the court to request increased visitation time. North Carolina law does not set limits on how much time each parent may receive for visitation; the parents may independently negotiate an agreement that works for them or the court can determine a schedule for the child's benefit.
Negotiation of Visitation Rights
When parents do not share a household or decide to end their marriage through separation or divorce, they must develop a custody agreement if they want a formal court order. Though a non-custodial parent generally has the right to some visitation, the two parents may need to negotiate the number of visits, specific weekly schedules and plans for weekends and vacations. In some North Carolina districts, the court requires mandatory mediation for parents before the court adjudicates custody and visitation issues. Parents can also choose mediation voluntarily through the North Carolina Court System's Child Custody and Visitation Program.
Help For Parents Seeking Visitation Rights
Some parents may need help to obtain visitation rights, especially if they have been separated from their children for a significant period of time. The North Carolina courts encourage non-custodial parents to regain visitation rights through its Access and Visitation Program. This court program helps parents who must overcome certain barriers, such as prolonged absence or unstable home environments, before the court will gradually approve more visitation. The program can also approve non-custodial parents for supervised visitation, as a starting point, or refer them to counseling services. Parents seeking to regain visitation rights may also benefit from consulting with a lawyer who handles custody and visitation cases in North Carolina. The North Carolina Bar Association or Legal Aid of North Carolina can refer parents to the appropriate legal services.