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North Carolina Child Custody FAQ, Part 2

Can a judge order no visitation or supervised visitation?

Judges have discretion in making child custody awards. When one parent has a history of abusive behavior, substance abuse, or other actions that might create a danger to the child, a judge might order supervised visitation. If the situation is extreme, the judge might deny visitation completely for a period of time, until a parent is able to show that they are able to care for the child.

How will I present evidence if custody must be litigated in court?

If parents are completely unable to reach agreement on how to share time with their children, they must ask a judge to make a decision. Each parent must present evidence, including witness testimony, to support that parent's assertion about what custody arrangement is appropriate. Typical witnesses might include the child's teachers, counselors, and family members or friends who have firsthand knowledge of relevant events. You should also be prepared to present documentary evidence such as Facebook posts and text messages which may provide the court with information about the other parent or their lifestyle.  

Will my child have to speak in court?

In North Carolina, it is up to the judge whether the testimony of the child takes place in the courtroom or in the judge's chambers (also called "in camera"). Most often, a child's testimony will be heard in chambers.

In North Carolina, a judge may consider a child's preference for custody as long as the child is mature enough to express an opinion. The weight given to a child's opinion depends on the particular child's age and maturity and also on the preferences of the individual judge deciding your child custody case. 

If I have custody, will I receive child support? What if custody is shared?

A request for child support must me made separately from a request for custody.  A person is not automatically awarded support by virtue of having custody of a child. You can get child support even if you share custody with the other parent depending on factors such as your respective gross incomes, which parent pays for healthcare expenses and the amount of childcare expenses, if any . The amount of child support is based on state guideline that take into account both parents' gross income and contributions for health insurance, child care costs, and any extra expenses. In certain cases a court may deviate from the guidelines if a child has special needs or the guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child. Get more information about child support.

Can I change my minor child's last name without permission from the other parent?

Unless the other parent's parental rights have been terminated, you cannot change a minor child's last name without that parent's consent absent extraordinary circumstances where a court determines that the other parent has abandoned the child.

Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

Child support and visitation are legally unrelated. A parent who is required to pay child support must pay it even if the other parent denies visitation.  Likewise, a parent cannot justify a refusal of visitation based on non-payment or underpayment of child support. (link to blog post)

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