5 People to Know in North Carolina Custody Cases

Your North Carolina custody case may involve many professionals.

Generally, each one is appointed by a judge, sometimes following a request from a parent. The judge decides how parents split the professional's fees, unless parents reach their own agreement.

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Custody evaluator

This mental health professional conducts custody evaluations. They evaluate you, the other parent and your child before submitting a report — with a custody recommendation — to the judge.

The evaluator interviews, observes and performs psychological tests on the parents and child. The evaluator may also interview witnesses like neighbors, teachers and other family members.

Concerns about issues like domestic violence, questionable parenting or a child's special needs often prompt an evaluation. You can select an evaluator together with the other parent or have the judge choose one for you.

Custody evaluators are expensive, often costing parents thousands of dollars each. The more children you have, the more it will cost.

Parenting coordinator

A parenting coordinator is a mental health professional or attorney who helps combative parents make day-to-day child rearing decisions together.

Parenting coordinators are usually assigned when a judge issues permanent custody orders. If parents agree to it, a judge can assign one earlier.

You and the other parent can choose a coordinator from the court's list or ask the judge to choose one for you.

Coordinators charge an hourly fee, often between $100 and $300. If parents can't afford a coordinator, the judge will not assign one.


Mediators guide parents toward custody compromises. As neutral parties, they work for the best interests of the child.

North Carolina requires parents to attempt mediation before going to trial, and it provides the mediator for free. Alternatively, you can hire a private mediator at any time, usually for around $100 to $300 an hour.

If you and the other parent reach a consensus, your mediator drafts a parenting agreement to submit to the court in a settlement.

Beyond the agreement, a mediator cannot tell the court any details of what happens during sessions.

Guardian ad litem

Judges often appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) attorney to children in highly contentious cases. They may appoint a GAL volunteer, who is not an attorney, at the same time.

The GAL team investigates your family, interviews other people close to your child and submits a report to the judge that includes a custody recommendation. (Parents can call both the GAL attorney and the GAL volunteer to testify about the report in a trial.)

In addition, the GAL attorney represents your child in court by presenting evidence, questioning witnesses and more. Unlike an attorney for an adult, who promotes their client's wishes, the GAL must push for what would best suit the child, even when that doesn't match the child's desires.

Volunteers work for free, while the court determines how much parents must pay for GAL attorneys. The attorneys can also be free, if parents can't afford to pay.

Child's advocate

In some Wake County custody cases, the judge appoints an attorney from the Child's Advocate program to represent the child. This attorney, called the child's advocate, has functions similar to those of a guardian ad litem attorney.

Professional technology

The professionals working on your case have many tools on hand. One of them is available to parents, too: Custody X Change.

With a parenting plan template, parenting time calendars, a digital journal and beyond, the Custody X Change app makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to custody and visitation.

Take advantage of the technology the professionals use, and get what's best for your child.

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