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Create a parenting plan or risk the court's decision

It's important to understand what will happen to your child after a divorce. If you and your spouse work together, it's possible to create a parenting plan that benefits you and your child. If you can't work together, the court may make a decision on your behalf that both parties then must abide by.

In any case, the court or you need to take your child's best interests to heart. If you are in a situation where your spouse is dangerous or violent, the court may determine that giving you sole physical and legal custody is a good move. If you are in a relationship where you can't live together but get along with your spouse, then joint custody is a possibility.

It's a good idea to go through the mediation process if you can't determine a parenting plan but still want to work together to negotiate one. If you leave the decision up to the judge, any decision he or she makes is final. However, if you take the time to arrange a plan that suits you, the other parent and your child, the court is likely to approve it without any issues. Would you rather know what's going to happen or leave it up to chance? Most people would prefer negotiation.

Custody and visitation rights aren't permanent, and they can be altered if one parent doesn't hold up to his or her end of the arrangement. For example, if one parent never shows up for visitation, then the court may eventually give sole custody to the other parent due to the negative relationship between the absentee parent and child.

It's a good idea to work with your attorney to determine the parenting plan you want, then speak to your spouse about it. With careful negotiation, you can create a plan that works for you.

Source: North Carolina Bar Association, "This Is the Law," accessed March 23, 2017

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