Child Custody in North Carolina

How to Get Child Custody in Raleigh

Mother with childCustody of a minor child may be decided through either an agreement between the parents or by a judge. In Raleigh, North Carolina, custody may be awarded to either one or both parents, another person (such as a grandparent), an organization, or an agency. A judge decides custody placement based on what is in the best interests of the child.

In order for a judge to have the authority to decide custody, North Carolina courts must have jurisdiction over the matter. In accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and N.C.G.S. § 50A-201(a), North Carolina courts can assume jurisdiction in a custody case if the child has been a resident of this state while living with a parent or someone acting in a parental capacity for at least six consecutive months immediately before the filing of the custody action.

Child Custody Jurisdiction

Families in today’s society are mobile. Parents often relocate to different states in search of employment or to be closer to extended family. This has led to an increase in interstate jurisdictional cases. All fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of uniform child custody laws. Under North Carolina law, these jurisdictional issues are covered in the UCCJEA.

N.C.G.S. § 50A-201(a)(2) provides for a remedy to help determine jurisdiction over these matters. A North Carolina court may assume jurisdiction if North Carolina was the child’s home state for at least six months before the custody action was filed and a parent or person acting in that capacity continues to live in the state.

North Carolina may also assume jurisdiction if the home state (other than North Carolina) has declined to do so, having determined that North Carolina is a more appropriate venue. However, before North Carolina will accept jurisdiction, it must be established that the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with the state over and above a simple physical presence.

Finally, if no other state has jurisdiction under the act, North Carolina can assume jurisdiction under UCCJEA § 50A-201(a)(4).

Legal vs Physical Custody

There are two aspects of child custody arrangements in North Carolina: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is further broken down to joint and sole custody, and physical custody is broken down into joint, primary, or sole custody. Legal and physical custody may be decided by a judge based on what is in the best interests of the child. In the alternative, parents can come to an agreement without judicial intervention through a consent order or separation agreement.

Joint legal custody is a fairly simple concept – both parents have a role in making significant decisions in the child’s life. Legal custody entails decisions regarding things such as, but not limited to, the child’s healthcare, education, and religious upbringing. If parents share joint legal custody they each have the authority to make decisions and often must come to agreements. By contrast, sole legal custody gives one parent the primary responsibility for making significant decisions in the child’s life.

Joint physical custody means that the child resides with each parent for about an equal amount of time. On the other hand, if one parent has primary physical custody, this means that the child resides with one parent the majority of the time (the custodial parent) and the non-custodial parent has visitation rights. If a parent has sole physical custody, this means that the child only resides with one parent.

Regardless of the legal custody arrangement, each parent is generally allowed to make every day decisions (e.g. bed time, diet, clothing choice) while the child is in that parent’s physical custody.

How Do I Get Custody of My Child?

While anyone can file a petition for custody of a child in Raleigh, it is wise to consult with an attorney familiar with North Carolina child custody laws. A family law attorney will ensure that the proper paperwork is filed and information completed in a manner that will both please the court and best present your argument.

If you need help understanding the law and your child custody rights, contact Montgomery Family Law today. Let us put our extensive experience in family law to work for you.

Contact us now to schedule an appointment and learn more about what Montgomery Family Law can do for you!


North Carolina Child Custody

North Carolina Child Support