North Carolina North Carolina

Child Custody Law

Child Custody General Information - What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.

Child custody cases in North Carolina can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:

  • Where the child lives (physical custody)
  • Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
  • How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged

This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the North Carolina court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.

North Carolina Child Custody Law Summary

After a breakup or divorce in North Carolina, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.

Some of the factors considered by North Carolina in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence.

How are Custody Proceedings Handled?

Whenever it appears to the court, from the pleadings or otherwise, that an action involves a contested issue as to the custody or visitation of a minor child, the matter, where there is a program established pursuant to G.S. 7A-494, shall be set for mediation of the unresolved issues as to custody and visitation before or concurrent with the setting of the matter for hearing unless the court waives mediation pursuant to subsection (c).

If an agreement that results from mediation and is incorporated into a court order is referred to as a "parenting agreement" or called by some similar name, it shall nevertheless be deemed to be a custody order or child custody determination for purposes of Chapter 50A of the General Statutes, G.S. 14-320.1, G.S. 110-139.1, or other places where those terms appear.

North Carolina Child Custody Factors - How Is Child Custody Decided In North Carolina?

If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a North Carolina judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".

In the state of North Carolina, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes North Carolina's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.

Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of North Carolina?

North Carolina does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.

Do judges in the state of North Carolina favor joint custody?

Judges in North Carolina are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.

Courts in North Carolina do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do North Carolina courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?

It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.

Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.

Do North Carolina courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?

North Carolina has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.

Do the courts in the state of North Carolina have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?

North Carolina does not have statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney for a child specifically in child custody case. This person would usually advocate for the best interest of the child.

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