When Can a Non-Parent or Third Party Seek Child Custody in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can I do to gain custody of my child in North Carolina?”


Under North Carolina law, non-parents and third parties can seek custody of a minor child. N.C.G.S. § 50-13.1 reads that a proceeding for child custody can be initiated by:

  • Parent
  • Relative
  • Another person
  • Organization
  • Agency
  • Institution

resting-peacefully-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Child-Custody-Lawyer-300x225The mention of “another person” means that non-parents and third parties can seek child custody in North Carolina. However, it does not necessarily mean that they are automatically awarded custody of a child. Under North Carolina law, all child custody cases are determined based on the child’s best interests.

If you are a non-parent or third party seeking child custody in North Carolina, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable family lawyer at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to help you in your attempt to obtain a favorable outcome.


Can Non-Parents or ‘Strangers’ Seek Child Custody in North Carolina?

When it comes to seeking custody of a minor child, the petitioner must prove that they have standing to file for custody. In legalese, “standing” means having a right to file a legal action or lawsuit in question.

In 1994, the North Carolina Supreme Court clarified North Carolina’s child custody law by arguing that the statute was not designed to give “strangers” a right to file custody actions against natural parents of minor children who are not related to the stranger seeking custody.

The Court added that a non-parent’s right to custody would interfere with the biological parent’s right to custody and care of their children.

In other words, North Carolina’s statute should not be misinterpreted as allowing complete strangers to file for child custody. But when do non-parties have standing to seek child custody?


Who Has Standing to Seek Child Custody?

Under North Carolina, a third party may have standing to seek child custody when they can prove their parent-child relationship with a child. Therefore, if a non-parent or third party has not established a relationship with a child, they have no standing to seek custody of such child.

However, a third party or non-parent will have to demonstrate evidence to prove that their parent-child relationship is sufficient to have standing to file for custody in North Carolina.


How Can a Non-Parent Win a Child Custody Case Against the Biological Parent?

If a third party or non-parent has standing to seek child custody, how can they win against the child’s biological parent? While a biological parent’s right to care for and raise their kids is protected by the U.S. Constitution, there are circumstances in which a non-parent can win child custody against a biological parent.

A non-parent can win a child custody case against the child’s natural parent when there is sufficient evidence to prove that the latter is unfit to be a parent, unable to care for the child, or abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated the child.

As mentioned earlier, North Carolina courts must consider the child’s best interest when awarding child custody. If you are a non-parent or third party seeking child custody in North Carolina, consult with our child custody attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







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.







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