FAQs: Child Custody in North Carolina


Questions About Child Custody

As parents, you want what’s best for your children and especially so in your post-separation child custody arrangements. Many parents have questions about how they can determine the best outcome for their children to live in a safe, healthy, and loving environment.


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding child custody issues in NC:

Effects of divorce on childrenWhat is the difference between legal and physical custody in child custody cases?


Legal custody means that the parent(s) of the child has the authority to make major life decisions that will impact the child. Parents with legal custody can make decisions on where their child goes to school, medical care, religious upbringing, etc. If the court grants joint legal custody, both parents have authority and are generally to consult with one another concerning these major decisions.

Physical custody determines where the child will live. In joint physical custody, the child will rotate between the two parents on a set schedule which can but does not have to be, equal. In a sole custody situation, the child lives primarily with one parent. The parent without physical custody may have visitations rights. Visitation rights do not grant that parent authority to make major life decisions for the child, but they can make day to day decisions.

Does it matter if I establish paternity or not?

Establishing paternity is an important step for fathers looking to gain custody of or visitation with their child. Failure by the father to take steps to legitimize their children and provide support can lead to parental rights being terminated. Paternity can be established in several different ways but is most typically done by the father being present at the birth and signing the child’s birth certificate.

If the father is not listed on the birth certificate, he would have to take other measures to establish paternity as provided by law. Failure by the father to take steps to legitimate their child and provide support can lead to parental rights being terminated. One important thing to remember is that North Carolina children to receive all the financial benefits they are entitled to. This includes:

  • child support
  • death and veteran benefits
  • inheritance

If the father does not legitimize the child, the mother can sue for child support in criminal or civil court. If the mother receives state benefits for the child, she can file an IV-D through the Department of Social Services. Establishing paternity could also provide the child with the father’s medical history which may be helpful in detecting and understanding possible medical issues in the future.

What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

The courts make a concerted effort to make sure of the child’s best interest is at the heart of every custody arrangement. With that said, there are several factors the courts consider when determining custody. Those include families dealing with issues of domestic violence, contested custody cases, military families, and changes in the terms of a custody arrangement.

  • Domestic Violence – This includes acts of violence or harassment between the two parties who were involved in a relationship, whether married or not, the safety of the child, and the safety of the victimized spouse.
  • Contested cases – This is an opportunity to provide mediation between parents, establish visitation, and clear up any issues between the parties regarding the details of the custody arrangement.
  • Changes in custody terms – If a change in one of the parent’s lives proves significant enough to warrant a modification of custody rights, the courts will hear their request.

If you need help getting custody of your child, the Monroe, NC child custody and child support lawyers at Plyler, Long & Corigliano, LLP can help. Give us a call at (704) 741-1584 to learn about our family law services or speak to one of our divorce attorneys.