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North Carolina Child Custody FAQ, Part 1

Who will get custody of our children?

In North Carolina, there is no preference for either parent in a custody dispute. The court makes custody decisions on the basis of what is the best interest of the child. Learn more about best interest of the child in North Carolina.

When can I get an order for child custody?

If there is no order or agreement already in place, either parent can file a request for a custody order at any time. The court will require parents to go to mediation to try to work out an agreement before a judge will hear the case. 

Can a child custody order be modified?

A parent who wants a change to a custody order may request one at any time, as long as the parent seeking the change can show that there has been a substantial and material change affecting the welfare of the child.  Further, the parent must show that a change in the current custodial arrangement would be in the  best interest and welfare of the child. Read more about key factors in modifying a child custody ruling.

What rights do grandparents have to custody and visitation in North Carolina?

Grandparents have visitation rights in certain limited circumstances, including cases where a child's parents are going through a custody battle.  In these cases, a grandparent may intervene in the case and seek to establish a visitation schedule with their grandchildren.  A grandparent may also file a custody or visitation action and obtain either custody or visitation by proving the child's parents to be unfit or neglectful of the child's welfare. Read more on North Carolina visititation issues involving grandparents.

What is visitation in North Carolina?

Visitation is treated as a form of custody in North Carolina.  A visitation schedule may include a child spending equal time with both parents or more time with one parent than the other.  Any visitation schedule that is implemented by the Court will be based on what the Court believes to be in the child's best interests. 

What is joint custody? What is sole custody?

Joint physical custody means that both parents spent significant time with the children, but the time split does not have to be equal. Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent either exclusively or for significantly more time than the other.

Joint legal custody means that the parents make decisions together about the child's welfare, including things like medical care and education. Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the authority to make those decisions, and is not required to consult with the other parent before taking actions that affect the child.

What is a custody evaluation and when should one be conducted?

Either parent in a custody dispute can ask the court for a custody evaluation, meaning that an objective third party is paid to assess each of the parents in order to assist the court in making a determination as to custody. The evaluator might be appointed by the court or chosen by the parents. Learn more about child custody evaluations.

What can I do to improve my chances of gaining custody if I have not been a terrific parent in the past?

You will have to take the time to show that you have changed, and you should not expect an immediate change in custody. If you have been an absentee parent, spend the time to get involved in your child's life. Get to know your child's teachers, counselors, and other community support system--but more important, get to know your child. If you have been a poor parent because of substance abuse issues, get treatment and be ready to prove to the court that you are sober and prepared to take on the responsibilities of parenting. You can also take parenting or anger management classes if appropriate.

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Scott Law Group, PLLC
210 N. Main Street
Suite 322
Kernersville, NC 27284

Toll Free: 800-566-2907
Phone: 336-310-8569
Fax: 336-993-5030

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