North Carolina's Criteria for Best Interest of the Child

Understanding the Best Interest of the Child Standard in North Carolina

In family law, the 'best interest of the child' is a doctrine used to make decisions about custody, visitation, and other child-related matters. In North Carolina, like in many other states, this standard is paramount when courts are faced with decisions affecting children. The best interest of the child takes into account various factors to ensure that the child's health, safety, and well-being are prioritized during legal proceedings.

Key Factors Considered in North Carolina

The courts in North Carolina consider a non-exhaustive list of factors when determining what serves the best interest of the child:

The application of these criteria is not formulaic; each case is evaluated on its specifics. For example, a historical reference to consider is Custody of Havens, where it was found that providing continuity in a child’s life was more beneficial than uprooting them for equal time with both parents in different states.

Court Evaluations and Interventions

To better assess what is in a child’s best interest, North Carolina courts may appoint a guardian ad litem or order psychological evaluations. These professionals provide insight into the child’s needs and what custody arrangement would serve those needs best.

The Evolving Nature of Best Interest Standards

The standard for determining a child's best interest is not static and evolves as societal norms and understandings about child development change. For instance, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of both parents' involvement in a child's life, leading to more shared custody arrangements when appropriate.


In North Carolina, as elsewhere, determining the best interest of the child requires careful consideration of numerous factors related to health, safety, stability, and overall welfare. While North Carolina law provides guidelines on these matters, ultimately each case’s unique circumstances dictate its outcome. Ensuring that children’s needs are at the forefront remains central to family law proceedings in North Carolina.