2024 How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Mother in North Carolina

Child Custody & Support
2024 How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Mother in North Carolina

The state of North Carolina does not award sole custody easily. Child custody laws have a goal to ensure that children can spend quality time with both parents, so long as one of the parents is not a threat to a child’s well-being. If your child’s father poses a significant risk to their safety or well-being, you may be asking how to get full custody of a child as a mother in North Carolina.

Types of Child Custody in North Carolina

When the court decides on child custody arrangements, it will take into account more than just where the child will physically live, known as physical custody. Legal custody, on the other hand, is the authority granted to a parent to make important decisions regarding the child’s well-being, such as healthcare, religion, and education. In North Carolina, various child custody arrangements may be awarded by the court, such as:

Sole Legal and Physical Custody

Sole custody, or full custody, is uncommon due to parents having the right to be in their child’s life and make decisions for them. When sole custody is awarded, it typically means that one parent will have custody of their child and the ability to make all decisions without consulting with the other parent. Non-custodial parents can seek visitation rights, though.

Joint Physical and Legal Custody

Joint custody is one of the most common arrangements. It requires that both parents share physical custody of the child, and the parents must make decisions together regarding the child’s well-being.

Sole Legal Custody and Joint Physical Custody

The court may award joint physical custody of the child, but one parent will make all the legal decisions without including the other parent.

Sole Physical Custody and Joint Legal Custody

The court may award one parent sole physical custody but require both parents to decide their child’s well-being together.

How Custody Is Determined

North Carolina law outlines what type of child custody arrangement will be in the child’s interests by weighing factors such as:

  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Each parent’s stability
  • Each parent’s living situation
  • Each parent’s ability to commit time to the child
  • Any factors that would prevent a parent from spending time with their child
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and with anyone else in the household
  • Safety of the child while with each parent
  • Any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, physical or mental health issues, or child abuse

How to Get Full Custody in North Carolina

North Carolina courts will be inclined to order sole physical and legal custody to one parent if the other parent is found to be unfit to care for the child or make decisions on their behalf. Some common situations where family courts may consider awarding sole custody are:

  • There are allegations of child abuse or domestic violence.
  • One parent cannot provide the child with a stable or safe living environment.
  • One parent is having a drug or alcohol abuse problem.
  • One parent is experiencing severe physical or emotional health issues.

If you’re seeking sole custody rights, there is a process that you must follow to have your petition approved. First, it is recommended that you discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney. After this, you and your attorney can file a motion for sole custody in the family courts. You may need to request an emergency order of sole custody if the other parent has a history of physical abuse, violence, or neglect.

The court will order child custody mediation. If there is a failure to reach an agreement, there will be a sole custody hearing. There, you and your attorney can present evidence demonstrating that sole custody is in the interests of your child.

After the evidence is reviewed, the judge will decide whether to grant sole custody. If the motion is approved, a permanent custody order will be issued. It will remain in effect until your child reaches 18 or a modification request is received.


Q: What Factors Will the Court Consider When Determining Custody?

A: North Carolina courts consider:

  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs
  • The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The preferences of older children

The court will always decide based on the interests of the child.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer to Pursue Full Custody?

A: While you can represent yourself, seeking legal representation is recommended, especially if your custody case is complex. A family law attorney can provide:

  • Legal knowledge and advice
  • Objective guidance during high-emotion times
  • Negotiation skills and legal advocacy
  • Protection for your rights
  • Assistance in avoiding costly mistakes

Choosing to forego having legal guidance on your side can come with long-term implications for your child’s well-being.

Q: How Long Does the Custody Process Take?

A: The duration of the custody process will depend on how complex the case is, whether decisions can be made outside of court, and the court’s schedule. The entire process can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. The process can be time-consuming because the court’s primary concern is the interests of the child, so decisions are not made lightly.

Q: Can Custody Arrangements Be Modified?

A: Yes, custody arrangements can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as changes in the child’s needs or if a parent is unable to fulfill custodial responsibilities. Both parents must agree to a modification, and the court must approve it. In some cases, the court may choose to attempt mediation before litigating a child custody modification.

Q: Can a Parent Lose Custody Rights in North Carolina?

A: Yes, a parent can potentially lose custody rights if it is determined to be in the child’s interests, such as if there is abuse, neglect, or an inability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child. Losing custody rights is typically viewed as a last resort, and the court may choose to try supervised visitation or rehabilitative measures before terminating parental rights.

Contact Lehnhardt Price Family Law

If you’re convinced that pursuing sole custody is right for your child, contact Lehnhardt Price Family Law. Our family lawyers can work to raise your chances of being awarded sole physical and legal custody of your child.