Home Divorce Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

Child Custody Laws in North Carolina



North Carolina’s commitment to the well-being of children and parents is evident in the changes made to its child custody laws over the past decade. The following key updates from 2013 to 2023 highlight the state’s dedication to modernizing its child custody regulations:

2013 – Best Interests Focus:

   – North Carolina reinforces the child’s best interests as the primary consideration in custody determinations.

2014 – Parenting Plans Requirement:

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

2015 – Shared Custody Emphasis:

   – Emphasis on shared custody arrangements to promote the active involvement of both parents.

2016 – Domestic Violence Consideration:

   – North Carolina includes domestic violence history as a significant factor in custody decisions.

2017 – Child’s Wishes Considered:

   – Courts start considering the child’s preferences as a factor in custody determinations.

2018 – Mental Health Assessment:

   – Introduction of mental health assessments when relevant to parental fitness and child well-being.

2019 – Relocation Guidelines:

   – Establishment of guidelines to address parental relocations and their impact on existing custody arrangements.

2020 – Co-Parenting Education:

   – Requirement for parents to attend co-parenting education classes to enhance communication and cooperation.

2021 – Grandparent Visitation Rights:

   – Enhancement of grandparent visitation rights when it’s in the child’s best interests.

2022 – Technology’s Role in Parenting:

   – North Carolina addresses the use of technology in co-parenting and its effects on child well-being.

2023 – Mediation Promotion:

   – Promotion of mediation as a method to resolve custody disputes amicably.

These changes reflect North Carolina’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the best interests of children and promoting positive parent-child relationships through its evolving child custody laws.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

One of the most difficult aspects of separation and divorce is splitting of parenting responsibilities.  Custody disputes can be hard on parents and children, so it is important for North Carolina parents involved in custody disputes to be well aware of the child custody laws in North Carolina.  This guide will help you understand the factors that North Carolina courts use when making custody determinations.  By the end of this guide, you will have a better understanding of child custody laws in North Carolina and be able to do

Can Children Decide?

In some states, children over a particular age are allowed to decide which parent they will live with.  Child custody laws in North Carolina do allow for children of “sufficient age to exercise discretion” to have their opinions be given “considerable weight” by the court.  However, this does not mean that a child’s determination is final.  Judges are permitted to place a child with either parent depending on the overall best interest of the child, with the child’s wishes as only one factor considered under child custody laws in North Carolina.

Parenting Plans and Mediation

The court system in North Carolina believes that most of the time, children are better served when parents come to an agreement about child custody issues.  Because of this, the state encourages parents to work together to develop a parenting plan that addresses any custody disputes.  This is sometimes developed voluntarily by parents who can cooperate to divide their parenting responsibilities fairly.

However, some parents find negotiation very challenging.  If it has been difficult for you or your spouse to agree on some aspect of child custody, you may be ordered by the court to attend mediation.  This is a much less formal process than a court hearing and allows both spouses to work out a deal with a neutral, third-party mediator advising and helping in the negotiation process.  Courts approve almost all parenting plans, though judges do have a right to modify or deny a parenting plan if it does not appear to be in the best interests of the child.

Shared Custody

Child custody laws in North Carolina refer to “shared custody,” rather than “joint custody.”  If parents are awarded shared custody, they will share time with their child based on their parenting plan.  Sometimes, this shared custody will split a child’s time evenly between parents, but other times, one parent will be awarded primary residential custody, and parents will share equally in legal custody (decisions about education, religion, and healthcare).

Exclusive Custody

Instead of calling custody by one parent “sole custody,” child custody laws in North Carolina call it “exclusive custody.”  If one parent is awarded exclusive custody, they will have the right to make all determinations about a child’s health and well-being, including educational and religious decisions.  A parent who is awarded exclusive custody does not have to consult the child’s other parent about any choices made on behalf of the child.