Child Custody Laws in North Carolina (NC)

Mother holding daughter while looking at ocean

Many U.S. states are very similar to one another when it comes to child custody laws but some North Carolina child custody laws seem to be an exception. It is extremely important that you are well prepared to handle issues that may come up with your child custody. Get to know how the state of North Carolina will handle your case and take all of the guessing out of the equation.

North Carolina child custody laws trust you to make the right decisions

North Carolina child custody laws and courts typically prefer that co-parents settle their child custody agreement outside of the courtroom. In fact, only a small number of child custody disputes in North Carolina must actually be decided in the courtroom. Its obvious that the North Carolina child custody laws and courts are urging co-parents to do everything that they can to settle their disputes and come to an agreement on their own. This could also force co-parents to cooperate with each other, creating a healthier environment for their child.

How will North Carolina child custody laws determine your custody arrangement?

If co-parents cannot agree on a child custody arrangement and wish to fight for certain custody rights over their child they must notify the court of the claim. North Carolina child custody laws and courts also require that both co-parents have participated in mediation to see if an agreement can be reached prior to bringing the case to trial. North Carolina child custody laws and courts do not recognize joint custody like most other states do. Instead, in a situation where joint custody would regularly be granted a judge will award primary custody to one co-parent and secondary custody to the other. This means that the child will spend most of their time at the primary custodial co-parent’s home. North Carolina child custody laws use the term secondary custody, but it is basically just another way of saying visitation rights. Legal custody, which has to do with the important decision making for the child, can be awarded to either co-parent or both co-parents in this case.

North Carolina child custody laws give co-parents proper rights to their children

North Carolina child custody laws and courts follow the general consensus that the co-parents have the right to custody of their child over any relative or third party individual. They also do not initially favor one co-parent over another. Only after evaluating and observing the co-parents in court will a custody arrangement be given in favor of one or the other. This was not always true though, like many other states, North Carolina child custody laws enforced what was called the tender years doctrine. This doctrine heavily favored the mother of the child to be granted primary custody over the father. The courts have moved away from this doctrine but there are still many judges and professionals who may still follow this idea, especially in cases with younger children. It is important to consider this when looking at your own child custody case.

This information is not to be used as legal advice. For additional aide and legal information please consult with a North Carolina family law professional regarding North Carolina child custody laws. For a list of resources in North Carolina visit our Helpful Links – North Carolina page. The OurFamilyWizard website® is dedicated to providing co-parents with the tools and resources they need to easily manage their custody agreements.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.