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Legal Information: North Carolina


Laws current as of December 22, 2023

If a custody order is already in place, how can I change it?

Since custody is decided in the best interest of the child, an order is not usually permanent.  If you have a custody order already in place, you can petition the court to make changes to it (modify it).  Generally, you can only ask to have a custody order modified if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.”1  Some examples of “substantial change in circumstances” could be if one of the parents is arrested, if the child is being abused, etc.  In North Carolina, a finding by a judge that domestic or family violence has occurred since the last custody determination could be considered a change in circumstances.

To modify a custody order, you will need to go to the court that issued the order, even if you have moved.  Generally, once a court has power over a case (jurisdiction), that court will keep jurisdiction, even if you move to another state.  If you have moved, you can ask the court to change the jurisdiction to the new state that you are in.  This is often complicated, and as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this.  Go to the NC Finding a Lawyer page to find legal assistance.

1 NCGS § 50-13.7(a)