Experienced Attorneys for Child Custody in North Carolina

Mom with her daughters - Twiford Law Firm

Compassionate Counselors for North Carolina Child Custody Matters in Elizabeth City, Moyock, and the Outer Banks

If your marriage or relationship has ended, dealing with a child custody issue can be highly emotional for everyone involved. There are many decisions that must be made concerning where the children will live, how much time they spend with each parent, and every other aspect of their lives. While the best interests of their children should be of primary importance, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise between parents. The North Carolina family law attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm have extensive experience guiding clients through even the most contentious and complex child custody cases.

We provide personalized attention and compassionate counsel to clients throughout Elizabeth City, Moyock, and the Outer Banks for a variety of North Carolina child custody matters, including drafting agreements, obtaining modifications, litigating enforcement actions, and establishing paternity. We are dedicated to handling each case with the utmost sensitivity and can help ensure your rights are protected — and the best interests of your children are met.

Understanding Child Custody in North Carolina

There are two parts to child custody in NC — physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Legal custody gives a parent decision-making authority for the child, such as those involving medical care, education, and religion.

Either type of custody can be "sole" and belong to one parent, or "joint" and shared between them. If only one parent has legal custody, they can make decisions about the child's life without discussing them with the other parent. If legal custody is shared, both parents will have to work together to make decisions about their child's welfare and wellbeing.

If the parents have joint physical custody, the child will generally spend a significant amount of time with each parent. In cases where one parent has sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent has the right to visitation — also referred to as “secondary custody.”

Even if both parents have reached a verbal custody agreement, it’s important to understand that it is not enforceable unless it’s in writing. Our attorneys can advise you concerning the implications of each type of custody arrangement and skillfully draft an agreement that works best for your family's situation.

Factors Affecting Child Custody in NC

Courts in North Carolina encourage parents to work out custody arrangements among themselves. However, if parents cannot reach an agreement, a court will decide the outcome of their custody matter. A judge may consider a wide variety of factors in determining child custody in NC, including the child's safety, whether there were any instances of domestic violence, and what is in the child's best interests.

The court will consider the specific facts and circumstances of your family to determine the best interests of the child, including:

  • The child's wishes (depending on their age)
  • The physical and emotional health of each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide stability
  • Each parent's availability to the child
  • The child's relationships with each parent
  • Whether the child has any special needs
  • Any other relevant factors

Child custody cases are fact-specific, and courts have broad discretion when making a custody determination. Our family law attorneys provide effective advocacy in the courtroom to safeguard your rights and promote the best interests of your children.


Whether they were married or not, both parents have an equal right under North Carolina law to spend quality time with their children and take part in raising them. In joint custody arrangements, each parent will generally share a substantial amount of time with the child — the children may also split their time equally between both households.

When physical custody is not shared equally, a visitation schedule must be established to guarantee that each parent has meaningful parenting time. Visitation schedules can vary widely based on many factors specific to the parents and children. A visitation schedule may provide certain days or dates to the non-custodial parent and divide holidays and birthdays. It can also include a provision for FaceTime or Skype visitation if parenting time in person is not possible.

A judge will rarely deny a parent visitation in North Carolina. If parenting time is restricted due to concerns about the child's welfare or safety, the court may order supervised visitation. In these cases, the custodial parent or another family member may supervise the visit. Visitation can also be ordered to be in a public setting, depending on the circumstances.

Visitation is an impart part of any child custody case. Our knowledgeable family law attorneys can help protect your rights, whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, and negotiate a visitation schedule that’s best for your children.

Establishing Paternity

In North Carolina, paternity is presumed when children are born to married parents. However, if the parents were not married at the time the child is born, a father does not have any custody or visitation rights until paternity is legally established.

Generally, paternity in North Carolina can be established by both parents signing an Affidavit of Parentage at the hospital after the child is born, or filing a civil action in court at any time before the child's eighteenth birthday. Typically, the court will order a blood or genetic marker test to determine the biological father. Once paternity is established, there is a separate legal process to legitimize a child born to unmarried parents.

After legitimation, a father has the same privileges and legal responsibilities as the child's mother. We are proficient in assisting clients with navigating the legal complexities associated with establishing paternity and can advise you concerning your legal rights and obligations.

Enforcing Child Custody Orders

If custody was ordered by the court, but one parent is noncompliant, it may be necessary to enforce the court order. Failure to adhere to a court order concerning child custody in NC is a serious matter and can be addressed in a civil or criminal contempt proceeding. If you are seeking to enforce a custody order or you are facing a contempt proceeding, our family law attorneys will work with you to secure the most effective outcome in your case.

Child Custody Order Modifications

Family situations can change significantly over the years. Sometimes custody orders need to be modified or vacated. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances — positive or negative — affecting your child custody order, the court may make a modification. Additionally, a court may modify the order if it would be in the child's best interests.

In determining whether modification of a child custody order is appropriate, a court will consider a number of factors, including the child's wishes, welfare, relationships with siblings or other family members, any medical issues, and other relevant factors. We will carefully assess any existing child custody order or agreement and work with you to achieve a positive resolution in your case.

Dedicated Representation for Child Custody in North Carolina

The family law attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm know that child custody issues can be emotionally charged and stressful. We are dedicated to helping take the burden off your shoulders so that your focus can remain on building the relationship you have with your children. With offices in Moyock and Elizabeth City, The Twiford Law Firm provides reliable and caring counsel for family law and child custody issues throughout Northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.

Attorneys:  Courtney Hull