Most everyone knows that the child custody process can vary greatly depending on the laws of the state you are in. However, the way the court system will handle your child custody claims will also vary depending on which county you are living in. In Charlotte NC, you are in Mecklenburg County. Because it’s such a large county the child custody process is handled in a very specific way. The 8 steps in the process are:
1) A Complaint (or Motion) is Filed.
In order to start the child custody process, one party must file what’s called a “complaint”. This lists out some basic information like who you are, where you live, who the opposing party is, where they live, who the child is, and where the child lives, how long the child has lived there, what is in dispute, and what you want from the court. These can be very long and when I draft them for my clients they tend to have over 100 allegations contained in them.
Note: If you have a child custody order in place already then what you need to file is called a “motion to modify custody” and isn’t a complaint, but rather you are asking the court to change the custody order that already exists.
2) Service is Achieved.
You must serve the opposing party your child custody complaint by what’s known as “rule 4 service”. This requires either a certified letter be sent to them, or you pay the sheriffs office to do this for you. If neither of those options works you may need to hire a process server.
After service is complete you will need to file an affidavit of service with the court to let them know it was accomplished.
3) The Answer is Filed.
This is where the opposing party will respond to the allegations contained in the complaint, and may also bring their own claim for custody. They will also lay out what they want they are asking the court to do.
4) Parenting Class.
In Mecklenburg County, both parents will be required to take a parenting class and to present that certificate to the court. You will be mailed information on how to sign up and take this class.
5) Mediation Orientation/Mediation.
All parties will be required to attend a mediation orientation where you will learn the benefits of mediation and how the process will be conducted. Then you will be required to go to custody mediation at a time and date that will be mailed to you. There you will have a chance to resolve your child custody dispute with a certified mediator who will try to help you two reach common ground. Anything offered or said at the mediation is confidential and cannot be used in court later in the child custody process. If that fails you move on to the next step in the child custody process.
In this step, you (or your attorney) will ask for documents to be sent to you from the opposing party. You can also ask them questions in a written form that they must respond to. These are called interrogatories. Further, you can make them answer yes or no style questions by sending them a request for admissions.
Finally, you may elect to do a deposition of the opposing party where they must answer questions under oath while a court reporter documents their answers.
7) Calendar Call or Scheduling Notice.
The court will set a calendar call date where the parties, or their attorneys, can discuss dates in the coming trial term, and tell the court how long they expect their hearing to last. At the end of the calendar call, the judge will set a date for the hearing and the length they will allow it to last.
8) The Hearing.
At the end of the process, there will be a hearing where both sides can present evidence and eventually the judge will decide what custody and visitation will be. You will be able to call witnesses, testify yourself, present documents, and use other evidence to make your case. The judge will weigh the evidence and try to determine the “best interests of the child”. Finally, the judge will make a ruling and set out a permanent order that will lay out the specifics of how visitation and custody will occur.
As you can see, the child custody process in Charlotte, North Carolina is long and complicated. Each one of these steps could have an entire article written about it. The entire process could take up to two or three years. Although, the average case is completed within one year. If you want to start the child custody process or want help with your existing case, make sure to contact the Emblem Legal office today. You can set up a consultation by calling 704-248-7683 or filling out our consultation form.
P.S. For more information about how to co-parent effectively, check out out the do’s and don’ts of co-parenting here.
To read the North Carolina Statutes about Child Custody click here.