North Carolina's Legal Process for Changing Custody and Visitation Schedules

Understanding the Legal Framework for Custody Modifications in North Carolina

In North Carolina, the modification of child custody and visitation schedules is a process governed by state statutes and case law. The guiding principle for such changes is always the best interest of the child. Parents who seek to modify custody or visitation orders must navigate through a series of legal steps and demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the entry of the original order.

Initiating the Process

The process typically begins with the filing of a motion in the same court where the original custody order was entered. This motion must detail the significant changes that have occurred to warrant a review of the custody arrangement. Examples of such changes may include a parent's relocation, a shift in a child's needs, or an alteration in a parent's living or working conditions that impacts their ability to care for the child.

Evidence and Testimony

Once the motion is filed, both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence and testimony supporting their respective positions. This may include personal testimony, witness statements, reports from child welfare experts, or other relevant documentation. The court will scrutinize all evidence presented to ensure that any modification serves the child’s best interests.

Mediation and Settlement

Before proceeding to litigation, North Carolina encourages parents to attempt mediation in order to reach an amicable agreement on custody modifications. If successful, this can result in a binding agreement that is then ratified by the court. Mediation can save time, reduce conflict, and place control into the hands of the parents rather than leaving it up to a judge’s discretion.

Court Intervention and Final Judgment

If mediation fails or is deemed inappropriate, the matter will proceed to court. The judge will consider all evidence and make a determination based on what best promotes the health, welfare, and happiness of the child involved. The court's decision will result in a new custody order that reflects any changes in custody or visitation schedules.


The legal process for changing custody and visitation schedules in North Carolina is designed to be thorough and child-centric. While it can be complex, understanding each step can help parents navigate the system effectively. It is advisable for individuals going through this process to consult with legal professionals who specialize in family law to ensure that their rights are protected and their children’s well-being is prioritized.