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Areas of Concern in Child Custody and Support

Carolyn Woodruff
Dear Carolyn, 

I am divorcing, and I have three children. I want joint custody. I expect to have half the time, and I think the mother will agree. While I know we need to have the schedule of when the children will be with each parent, I am looking for a checklist of considerations other than the schedule itself. What should my concerns be?

– Father of Three

Dear Father of Three,

I will explain six items that are frequently overlooked or inartfully handled in custody and child support settlements.  These create discord if not handled correctly. Try to handle as many of these as possible in very specific ways.

1. Extracurricular activities.

So mom wants dance as the extracurricular for the child, and dad wants soccer.  Which parent prevails, and who pays? Who provides transportation? Let’s say Boy Scouts meet on Monday nights. On an every other week schedule, the mother has to take the child to Scouts one week and the father the alternate week. This lack of specificity leaves room for much discussion and dissension if both parents don’t agree on the activity for the child.  Address who buys the items for the activity, such as the Scout outfit. Will each parent keep a Scout outfit at his/her respective home? Further, selection of the activities until the child is old enough to have his/her on definite opinions can be a problem. How many activities can also be a problem? Should the child have every available minute covered with some activity or should one activity at a time be the preference; parents have very different views on how many activities are healthy.

As a default when you disagree, perhaps limit activities to two per semester and in the summer. Rotate having the parent pick the activities: e.g., father picks spring 2016; mother picks Summer 2016; father picks fall 2016, mother picks spring 2017, etc.

2. Relocation

Include a notification provision. If a parent intends to relocate, ask for 120 days’ notice to the other parent.  Keep in mind that relocation of the child can frequently be blocked by a judge.

3. Cohabitation

So, what will be the standard for dealing with new relationships when the parent has not remarried? Can the new significant other spend the night with the children in the home, go on vacation, and/or move in? This warrants discussion.

4. Dependency Exemptions.

The parent with more overnights wins the dependency exemptions under the Internal Revenue Code. If this is not the result you seek, discuss it.

5. Transportation and Exchange Times and Places.

I like for the default provision to be as precise as possible regarding who picks up the children and at what time. Obviously, if the parents can agree on a particular day for some alternate arrangement, good; but the parents need a default provision to be used when the parents are not in agreement.

6. College.

Under North Carolina law, neither parent has a legal obligation for college expenses. Planning for college for your children is important and is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids. Planning with a 529 Plan should be considered.

Have a family law question? Ask Carolyn!

Send your questions to Ask Carolyn through our website, on social media, by email at askcarolyn@rhinotimes.com, or mail them to P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions.

Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.  The column also uses hypothetical questions.  A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your unique case.  Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn.”


This blog is revised from a previous column published in the Rhino Times.