The role of the primary caretaker in child custody decisions

If North Carolina parents who are going through a divorce cannot reach an agreement about child custody outside of court, a family court judge must rule on the matter. When a judge makes a ruling about primary physical custody, the judge typically favors the parent that is the child’s primary caretaker. To determine who has served as the primary caretaker, a judge will look at a number of different factors.

In family law, the primary caretaker is the parent who has taken care of a child’s most basic needs. Feeding, bathing, grooming and clothing of a child are all considered responsibilities of a primary caretaker. A primary caretaker may also make healthcare arrangements for the child, schedule extracurricular activities, attend conferences at the child’s school and teach the child reading and writing skills.

The primary caretaker is usually preferred in child custody decisions so that the child’s bond won’t be interrupted. Psychological research has found that this emotional bond is vital for a child’s successful development. The primary caretaker could be a mother or father, and in some cases, the mother and father share primary caretaking responsibilities equally.

When it is not absolutely clear which parent is a child’s primary caretaker, a divorcing parent may want to make sure that the court has all of the information that it will need to make a sound child custody decision. An attorney can often assist a client in putting together as much evidence as possible to support a request for joint physical custody. This could include testimony from healthcare providers and teachers, for example.