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North Carolina Child Custody Laws

State child custody laws are fairly similar from one state to the next, and most states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act (including North Carolina). North Carolina child custody laws recognize the option of joint custody; allow for visitation by grandparents; and consider the child's own wishes before ordering custody terms.

Learn more about North Carolina's child custody laws in the chart and summary below. See FindLaw's extensive Child Custody section for additional articles and resources.

Code Section 50-11.2 et seq.
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted 1979
Joint Custody an Option? Yes, §50-13.2
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized? Yes, §50-13.2(b1)
Child's Own Wishes Considered? Yes

Types of Child Custody

There are two basic types of child custody, and they come in two different forms.

Legal Custody

A parent has legal custody when he or she is allowed to make important decisions in a child's life. Those decisions generally include education, religious instruction, and medical decisions.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is the term used to describe when a child lives with a parent. Although it was once common, joint physical custody is less popular than before. Now, it is more common for one parent to have physical custody, and the other parent to have visitation rights. This prevents the child's school schedule and life from being disrupted unnecessarily.

Joint and Sole Custody

When parents share a form of custody, they are said to have joint custody. When only one parent has a form of custody, it's called sole custody. One common arrangement is joint legal custody, and one parent to have sole physical custody, while the other has visitation rights.

How Custody is Determined

North Carolina family courts decide child custody issues based on what it believes to be in the best interest of the child. This is called the best interest of the child standard. Some of the factors courts will use when deciding custody issues are:

  • History of domestic violence
  • The child's overall safety
  • The child's current living arrangement
  • The child's relationship with each parent
  • Each parent's ability to care for the child
  • Whether each parent can create a stable home for the child.

Grandparent Visitation Rights in North Carolina

North Carolina allows for grandparent visitation rights. Sometimes these are called third-party visitation rights, or non-parent visitation rights. Gaining non-parent visitation rights is the same process as gaining custody or visitation rights to a parent. The person asking for visitation rights will present their case to the court, and will have to show that allowing them to spend time with the child will be in the child's best interest. This is often the case for siblings, when adoption or child custody issues have split them up.

If you would like to know more about the child custody laws in North Carolina, there are many attorneys throughout the state with child custody and family law experience who may be able to help. In addition to informing you about child custody laws, they may be able to represent you in a child custody case, divorce, or child support case.

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