When you have a North Carolina child custody order, it stays into place until the court changes it or until the children reach the age of majority. Parents often wonder what they can do to follow the rules and stay out of trouble. Here’s what you should do to protect yourself when you have a custody order in North Carolina:
1. Follow the court order
When you don’t follow the court order, you open yourself up to trouble. Always follow the custody schedule to the letter even if it means the children miss an important activity or a family event. You can only deny parenting time in the most extreme cases where it’s bad enough that child protection services could be involved.
2. Document agreed-upon changes in writing
If the other side agrees to accommodate a parenting time swap, you can make the change without needing a court order approving it. Make sure you get the other parent’s approval in writing. Save a copy of their written approval in case they later try to claim that they never agreed to the change.
3. Ask the court if you need to change something
When you need to make big changes to the parenting time order like changes in custody, the parenting time schedule or child support, ask for the change officially through the court. There are laws that spell out when you qualify for a major change. Going through official channels can save you from allegations that you aren’t willing to coparent or follow court orders.
4. Keep communications business-like
Your co-parent doesn’t have to be your friend, but you must communicate with them professionally. Don’t call them names or try to resolve personal conflicts when you communicate. When you stick to professional commuications, you don’t have to worry about your words being used against you if your case ends up in court.
5. Exercise all of your parenting time
Never agree to give up parenting time. In addition, go to your children’s activities, school conferences and events. That way, you can fight back if the other side tries to take your time away by claiming that you’re not a hands-on parent.
Ask yourself how things would look to the court
Before you take any course of action, ask yourself how it might look if the court second-guessed your decision making. How would the court feel about your moving in a new boyfriend or girlfriend with a significant criminal history? Would the court look the other way if you exposed the children to substance abuse or violence?
Until your children reach the age of majority, your relationship with your co-parent is going to remain adversarial to some extent. Even though you should work with them professionally, you should never forget that they may always try to use what you do and say against you. Now is the time to be on your best behavior.