Determining child custody tends to be one of the most difficult parts of separation and divorce. North Carolina, along with many other states, has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act and a judge decides on child custody based upon the best interest of the child.
At a high-level overview, there are two basic types of child custody. Legal custody refers to who has authority to make important decisions in a child’s life. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Furthermore, both legal and physical custody can either be joint or sole custody. Joint custody is when parents share a form of custody, and sole custody is when only one parent has a form of custody. While this may seem pretty straight forward, determining legal and physical custody for a child can be extremely complex.

With regards to physical custody, matters can become even more intricate when considering summer break and holidays. Associate Attorney Tara Harrawood frequently handles child custody and has seen many different ways for physical custody to be split. Since summer has officially started, it is a fitting time to review different options for child custody during the summer. Physical custody during the summer is oftentimes determined in relation to physical custody during the school year, and each unique case has a unique summer plan.

When planning for summer custody, it is important to know that there are summer vacation blocks in pretty much every custody order. Vacation blocks could be mapped out in a variety of ways. A few examples of vacation blocks could be for two consecutive weeks; two non-consecutive weeks; or three weeks of summer vacation, no more than two of which can be consecutive. If parties are already doing a week-to-week custody schedule, they often leave this schedule the same for Summer. Sometimes they will include a bigger vacation block – maybe 2 consecutive weeks – for summer trips or extended visits with one parent or the other.

It is pertinent that parents designate a date for which summer travel and vacation plans must be shared with the other parent. These plans should generally be shared by early to mid-April for the upcoming summer. This gives both parents the opportunity to plan accordingly. What if there is a disagreement or overlap over dates wanted for summer vacation blocks? Tara suggests that one parent should get priority in even years and the other in the odd years.
With vacation comes travel, and that opens discussion for specific provisions regarding international travel and passports for children. Tara has experienced a situation in which both parents had family living internationally and it was important for their children to be able to spend time with each family. Therefore, it was imperative to provide for parents to share passports for the children and for each parent to be allowed two consecutive weeks of vacation to take these longer trips.

An additional example of physical custody could be to have a “school year parent” and a “summer parent.” Typically, this happens when parents live in different states. Tara tends to set this up so that the school year parent has the first two weeks following school recessing and the last two weeks prior to school resuming. The children visit the summer parent during the bulk of the summer.

The examples listed above are only scratching the surface when it comes to determining physical custody. Not only do you have to think about school year versus summer, but also alternating holidays throughout the year. The intricacy of custody orders shows the importance of hiring an attorney that you can trust to help guide you through this process. Marcellino & Tyson is proud to have attorneys like Tara who are passionate about being a voice for their clients and helping them receive the best possible outcome.

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