A man and woman each holding an arm of their young daughter as if they are pulling her in opposite directions

North Carolina Child Custody Basics

How the Child’s Needs are Met

Child custody must be determined in any divorce involving children. It can be frightening, however, to think of not being able to spend time with your child if the case does not go your way. It's important to understand how the law works in North Carolina to give yourself the ability to craft an argument to defend your parental rights. Keep reading to learn more about North Carolina's child custody laws.

Types of Child Custody in North Carolina

North Carolina law names two types of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make decisions about their child's education, health care, and religious upbringing. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to which parent the child will live with. In some cases, parents may have joint legal and physical custody of their children.

In North Carolina, the courts presume that joint legal and physical custody is in the best interests of the child. However, this can be rebutted if it is shown that joint custody would not be in the child's best interests. Factors that may be considered when determining whether joint custody is in the child's best interests include:

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate with each other regarding the child's welfare;

  • The level of conflict between the parents;

  • The history of domestic violence;

  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable and loving home for the child;

  • The child's preference, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express a reasonable preference; and

  • Any other factor that the court finds relevant.

Factors that Help the Courts Determine Custody

In North Carolina, courts use the best interests of the child standard when making custody determinations. This means that the court will consider various factors related to the child's wellbeing when making a decision about which parent should have legal or physical custody.

Some of the factors that the court may consider include:

  • Each parent's ability to provide for the child's physical needs

  • Each parent's ability to meet the child's emotional needs

  • Each parent's ability to provide stability and consistency for the child

  • The child's relationships with siblings and other important people in their life

  • The child's preference, if they are of sufficient age and capacity to form an opinion

  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent

  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent.

Note that courts will not consider a parent's gender when making custody determinations. In other words, fathers and mothers have an equal chance of being awarded custody of their children.

When Needs Change

There may come a time when the custody arrangement that was put in place at the time of divorce no longer works for either parent or the child. If this happens, it may be possible to modify the custody order. You will need to prove that you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances since the original custody order was put in place. Once you have submitted proof, the court will then consider whether modifying the custody arrangement is in the child's best interests.

If you are thinking about modifying your child custody arrangement, it is important to speak with a family law attorney who can help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Working with a Child Custody Attorney

If you are going through a child custody case in North Carolina, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side. Child custody laws can be complex, and having an advocate who knows the ins and outs of the legal system can be extremely helpful. If you have questions about your specific situation, reach out to the team at Blood Law, PLLC today.


Learn more about how we can help with child custody cases or speak with a member of our team by calling (704) 286-0570 or by visiting our website.

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