How is Child Custody Determined in North Carolina?

Custody-1024x1024How is Child Custody Determined in North Carolina?

When parents divorce, many of their main concerns are for their children. In general, North Carolina provides for both parents to have time with their children. Parents sometimes disagree about child custody matters. There are two types of child custody, including legal and physical. Legal custody is the ability of a parent to make decisions on behalf of their kids such as those regarding education, religion, and health matters, for example. Physical custody refers to where a child resides.


What are the Custody Rights of Parents?

Parents typically have the automatic right to custody of their minor child. This right applies to natural parents as well as adoptive parents. In the case of unmarried parents, the natural father must establish paternity under the law in order to be afforded parental rights. Both the mother and father are considered equal when it comes to child custody. However, if a parent is found to be unfit, the court may make a determination that limits the custody rights of a parent. The judge will have the final determination of child custody.


Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How is the amount of child support decided in North Carolina?”


Factors a Judge Considers When Deciding Child Custody

Child custody determination is the job of the judge in a family court. The judge will evaluate a number of factors to decide child custody. Some of these factors include the age of the child, the ability of the parent to provide a safe and stable home environment, the ability to provide for the child, the amount of time a parent can spend with the child, and the needs of the child. Above all else, the judge will always ensure that the decision is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, the judge will use their own opinion to weigh the various factors.


Can a Child Decide Whom to Live With?

North Carolina courts may take the child’s wishes into consideration when determining custody. This is entirely up to the judge. Generally, the judge maypaper-family-1186206-scaled consider the wishes of a child who is old enough to understand the situation and has enough maturity to make the choice. The judge may speak to a child privately to find out what the child prefers. However, even if the child has a preference, the judge will still make a decision based on the many factors in totality including what is in the best interests of the child.



Typically, a child will reside primarily with one parent. The non-custodial parent will usually have visitation with the child on a regular basis. Parents can work out the details before the judge makes a decision. In many cases, children will visit with the non-custodial parent on weekends of every other week. Parents can also make visitation decisions for holidays, vacations, and school breaks and these can be incorporated into the final order.


Child custody matters can be complex and emotional. It is helpful to seek guidance from an experienced child custody attorney to guide you through the legal process. To learn more, call us at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to schedule a consultation.




The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.




Image Credit:


See Our Related Video from our YouTube channel:


See Our Related Blog Posts:

Resolving Summer Custody Issues

Co-Parenting School Age Children

Contact Information