What You Need to Know About Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

Custody cases can become complicated when parents divorce. Here’s everything you need to know about child custody laws in North Carolina.

Child custody laws in North Carolina follow state statutes. Courts will put the child’s best interest first in determining any custody or visitation terms.

Child Custody and Visitation in North Carolina

In North Carolina, child custody gives a parent the right to care for a child and make the child’s life decisions.

Visitation is a type of secondary custody. Visitation allows a parent to see their child at predetermined times (designated in a court order.)

Custody Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina statutes outline custody procedures. The statutes encourage parents to put their child’s best interests first and encourage equitable parenting.

In a custody case, a judge’s primary interest is to promote the child’s welfare.

Factors Affecting Child Custody in North Carolina

In a child custody case, a North Carolina court will consider the:

  • Child’s age
  • Child’s needs
  • Child’s relationship with parents and/or siblings
  • Parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Parent’s home environment
  • Parent’s time commitments

Related: How to Fight Termination of Parental Rights in North Carolina

Legal vs. Physical Custody in North Carolina

In North Carolina, legal custody allows a parent to make decisions about their child. Physical custody allows a parent to care for a child’s physical well-being.

A parent may share physical and legal custody or retain full custody themself.

Sole vs. Joint Custody in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a parent may share custody or retain full custody themself.

A parent with sole legal custody does not need to consult another parent when making major decisions.

A parent with joint legal custody must consult their co-parent before making major decisions about their child (such as what school to attend or what medical care to acquire.) If parents cannot agree, a court may rule a decision.

A parent with sole physical custody retains sole responsibility for their child’s physical care. With sole physical custody, another parent may retain visitation rights.

Joint physical custody refers to the division of physical custody between two parents.

Related: Can Children Choose Custody in North Carolina?

How to File for Custody in North Carolina

To file for custody in North Carolina, you must file a complaint with a local court.

An experienced attorney may file a complaint about you, or you can find information about the child custody paperwork on the North Carolina Legal Aid Website.

FAQs About Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

Does North Carolina require a custody order?

Parents who are not together must get a custody order. Parents who are together may still acquire a custody order to settle disputes about child care.

Temporary guardians do not need a custody order by North Carolina law. However, a school or medical facility may require proof of custody before a guardian may make decisions for their child.

What happens when a child turns 18 in North Carolina?

When a child turns 18 in North Carolina, they are legally an adult and are no longer subject to custody or visitation agreements.

Does North Carolina prefer one parent in legal procedures?

North Carolina law doesn’t prefer one parent to the other in legal procedures.

What is an ex-parte order?

In North Carolina, a judge may grant an ex-parte, or emergency, custody order if a child is in immediate danger. An ex-parte order will grant individual temporary visitation rights over the child while both parties undergo a court hearing.

Can parents use mediation to agree on custody terms in North Carolina?

Mediation is a great way for parents to agree on custody terms without going to court. Mediation can save parents time and money in attorney and court fees.

Can a child testify in a custody case in North Carolina?

Many North Carolina judges will ask a child not to observe their custody trial. If a child must testify about an incident or speak to the judge about their wishes, a judge may allow their testimony in court.

Does North Carolina have an age requirement for child testimony in a custody case?

North Carolina does not have a predetermined age limit on child testimony in a custody case.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about Child Custody Laws North Carolina, get your free consultation with one of our Family Law Attorneys in [location] today!