When can a North Carolina Judge Change Your Child Custody Order?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What are my custody rights if the other parent moves?”


When parents get divorced or separated, the court issues a child custody order that puts the custody arrangement in writing. However, child custody orders are not necessarily permanent. In North Carolina, a judge has jurisdiction to modify a custody order at any point until the child reaches the age of majority.

moving-tools-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Child-Custody-Attorney-300x225Under certain circumstances, a parent can request a modification of a child custody order. Typically, the parent who wants to change their custody order will request a modification with the help of an experienced attorney.

A judge can approve the modification upon determining that:

  • There has been a substantial change of circumstances since the initial custody order was put in place;
  • The change of circumstances affected the welfare of the child; and
  • It is in the best interest of the child to modify the order.


When is a Judge Likely to Modify a Child Custody Order?


Below, we outline the most common situations in which a judge in North Carolina is likely to issue a modification of child custody.


If the custodial parent decides to move out of state or country with the child, the non-custodial parent can petition the court to modify the custody order. However, relocation can be grounds for modification only if:

  • The initial custody order limits the custodial parent’s ability to relocate with their child;
  • The custodial parent decided to relocate with their child without the other parent’s approval; or
  • The move is not in the child’s best interest.


Failure to Follow the Custody Order

If one parent refuses or fails to follow the terms outlined in the initial child custody order, the other parent can request a modification.

If one party refuses to follow the judge’s order, the judge is likely to change the custody order or even hold that parent in contempt. However, the parent requesting a modification will have to present evidence proving that the other party failed or refused to follow the custody terms.


Change in the Child’s Needs

What worked for your child when the initial custody arrangement was established years ago may no longer work as your child grows and develops. For this reason, if you have evidence to prove to the court that your child’s needs have changed, a judge is likely to approve your request to modify the custody order.


Change in Circumstances

If a parent’s circumstances have changed since the initial custody order was created, the court can approve a custody modification. However, the parent whose circumstances have changed will have to prove that the change is too substantial that it affects the child’s life.



North Carolina courts take child endangerment accusations seriously. In North Carolina, the child’s best interests are the court’s priority when it comes to establishing modifying a custody order. For this reason, a judge is likely to approve a custody modification if one of the parents puts a child in danger or engages in behaviors that threaten the safety and well-being of the child.

Consult with a skilled family law attorney in North Carolina if you are considering requesting a modification of your child custody order. Talk to our lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to review your particular situation. 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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