Child Custody and Relocation in North Carolina

child custody and relocation

Relocating after a divorce or separation can be a complicated endeavor, especially when children are involved. In North Carolina, like many states, child custody and relocation laws are designed to prioritize the child’s best interests while balancing the rights and responsibilities of both parents. If you’re a parent considering a move, or if your ex-spouse is, it’s essential to understand how North Carolina views child custody in the context of relocation.

Best Interests of the Child

The central principle in any child custody decision in North Carolina is the “best interests of the child.” This foundational guideline means that any decision, including relocation, should primarily benefit the child’s welfare, safety, and overall well-being.

No Automatic Right to Relocate

Unlike some states, North Carolina doesn’t have a specific “relocation statute” for parents with custody. However, that doesn’t mean a custodial parent can move without consideration. If there’s a custody order in place, relocating, especially if it makes current visitation unworkable, can be seen as violating that order.

Notifying the Other Parent

While it’s not a strict legal requirement, it’s advisable (and often essential based on the specifics of a custody agreement) for the relocating parent to notify the non-relocating parent well in advance of the move. This gives both parties time to discuss, negotiate, and possibly modify the custody arrangement.

Modifying the Custody Order

If one parent wants to relocate with the child and the other parent opposes the move, the relocating parent will typically need to seek a modification of the current custody order from the court. During this process, the moving parent must prove that the relocation is in the child’s best interest.

Factors the court may consider include:

  • The relocating parent’s reason for moving
  • The non-relocating parent’s reasons for opposing the move
  • The relationship of each parent with the child
  • The child’s age, preference (particularly if older), and current ties to the community, school, and extended family
  • The potential benefits of the relocation, such as better economic opportunities, education, or proximity to extended family

Impact on Visitation

If a court allows a relocation, it will likely necessitate adjustments to the visitation schedule. The new arrangement will aim to ensure the non-relocating parent maintains a meaningful relationship with the child. This might mean longer but less frequent visitation periods, such as extended breaks or holidays.

Relocation by Agreement

In situations where both parents agree on the relocation, they can jointly draft a new custody and visitation agreement reflecting the changes. While smoother, it’s still crucial to have this agreement approved by the court to make it enforceable.


Relocation in the context of child custody is a delicate issue in North Carolina, blending parental rights with the best interests of the child. Whether you’re considering a move or your ex-spouse is, understanding the legal landscape is crucial. Always consider consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney to navigate these waters and ensure your child’s best interests, and your parental rights, are at the forefront.

Getting in Touch with a Family Law Attorney

Dealing with child custody and relocation in North Carolina can feel really difficult, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Our dedicated family law attorney is here to guide you through every step, ensuring your rights are protected and your family’s best interests are prioritized. If you’re facing a custody or relocation issue, don’t hesitate to reach out to our expert family lawyers. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards securing a positive future for you and your children. Your family’s well-being is our top priority, and we’re committed to helping you navigate these challenging times with confidence and care.