Child Custody Orders in North Carolina

A court can issue several types of custody orders, all of which legally mandate how a child should be cared for. Find information on emergency orders, temporary orders and permanent orders below.

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Emergency orders

An emergency order is a type of temporary order. To get one, you must provide evidence that your child faces immediate danger or risk of abduction.

Within hours or days of submitting a well-founded request for an emergency order, you'll have a hearing without the other parent (called an ex parte hearing).

If the judge grants you emergency custody at the hearing, you'll attend a second hearing within 10 days, where the other parent can present evidence to counter your claims. If any delays occur, the emergency order remains in place until the hearing takes place.

At the second hearing, the judge can terminate the emergency order or convert it into a regular temporary order, which may or may not have the same stipulations.

Temporary orders

Temporary custody orders provide short-term solutions to disputes that can wait for a regular hearing but cannot wait until the end of legal proceedings. In addition to addressing specific issues, they assign legal and physical custody for the duration of the litigation process or settlement process.

Parents can agree on a temporary order or request a decision from the court. If a parent disagrees with the court's decision, he or she can request a new temporary order.

Temporary orders in North Carolina become permanent if they've been in place for a significant period of time — usually at least five months, though each case is unique — and parents are no longer actively pursuing custody.

Permanent orders

A permanent order lasts until one of the following occurs:

  • The child involved turns 18.
  • The child is emancipated.
  • The parents reach an alternate agreement.
  • A parent proves a new order is necessary.

When issued, a permanent order takes the place of any temporary orders in the case.

Permanent orders can be reached in two ways.

Preferably, the parties draw up the terms together in a consent order or parenting agreement, and a judge signs off, as long as it's in the child's best interests. Known as settling, this is considered the gold standard, as it keeps families in charge of their own lives.

Alternatively, a judge will decide the terms based on the evidence from a trial.

If a parent has a legal reason to challenge a judge's decision, they can go to the court of appeals and begin the legal process again.

Modifying a permanent order

To modify a permanent order, you must prove that a substantial change in circumstances — such as a move or a new work schedule — has impacted the child's best interests. A judge will not alter the order if the current arrangement suits the child best.

If parents agree on a modification, they present it to the judge for approval.

If parents disagree, one can file a Motion to Modify Custody to ask the court to make a decision for them.

Enforcing a permanent order

If the other parent doesn't follow a court order, you should keep detailed records of the violations. You can use your Custody X Change journal or actual parenting time tracker.

For serious or repeat violations, you can file for contempt with the court. If you think your situation calls for a contempt of court case, speak to an attorney; these are typically criminal proceedings.

Following court orders correctly

When a court issues orders, you must follow them. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, fined and more.

But orders are complicated, especially for visitation. When exactly does "Week 2" begin this month? Which day marks the middle of summer break?

Use Custody X Change to plug your order into a calendar you can edit, share and print so you'll never have to wonder whether you're following the order correctly.

With the Custody X Change online app, you can combine schedules for the school year, summer break and holidays into one calendar.

You can even track how well court orders are being followed with our parenting time tracker and parenting journal.

Custody X Change has all the tools you need to set your new parenting arrangement up for success.

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