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North Carolina Family Law

North Carolina Family Law

North Carolina Family Law: An Overview

Family law in North Carolina covers a wide range of legal issues that arise within families. These may include marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, adoption, domestic violence, and more. Understanding the laws that govern these aspects of family life can be critical to protecting your rights and interests. In this article, we will provide an in-depth overview of North Carolina family law, including the latest updates and resources available to the public.

Marriage in North Carolina

Before discussing laws surrounding marriage in North Carolina, a brief history of marriage and divorce in general is essential to provide context. Traditionally, a marriage was considered a lifetime commitment, which could only be dissolved by death. As society evolved, attitudes toward marriage and divorce changed. In particular, the concept of no-fault divorce emerged in the 1970s, which allowed for a divorce to occur without needing to prove wrongdoing on the part of one spouse.

In North Carolina, the legal age for marriage is 18 years old. However, minors aged 16-17 can marry with the consent of their parents or guardians. Minors under 16 can only get married with a court order allowing them to do so. Same-sex marriage was legalized in North Carolina in 2014, following a federal court ruling in the case of General Synod of the United Church of Christ vs. Cooper.

Divorce in North Carolina

In North Carolina, an absolute divorce can be granted on the following grounds:

– Separation for at least one year (no-fault)
– Incurable insanity of one spouse, with a court ruling
– Adultery
– Abandonment
– Alcohol or drug addiction
– Domestic violence

In most cases, a one-year separation is sufficient for a court to grant an absolute divorce. However, if the separation is not voluntary, the aggrieved spouse can seek a formal legal separation instead.

Child Custody and Support

In any divorce proceeding where children are involved, the issue of custody and support is essential. In North Carolina, child custody is divided into two types: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, while legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including issues such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.

The court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as the child’s age, relationship with each parent, and ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs. In some cases, joint custody may be appropriate if both parents can agree to work together for the benefit of the child.

Child support in North Carolina is generally determined based on the guidelines outlined in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The court has the discretion to deviate from the guidelines if necessary, but this is relatively rare.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as alimony, may be awarded in certain divorce cases where one spouse is financially dependent on the other. The court will consider several factors when determining whether to award spousal support, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, and the financial resources of each spouse. Spousal support can be either temporary or permanent. In general, it is more likely to be awarded in longer marriages where there is a significant income disparity between the spouses.

Property Division

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means that property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. In general, each spouse is entitled to a fair share of the marital property, which includes any assets acquired during the marriage. Separate property, such as properties or assets obtained before marriage, does not typically factor into the division of marital property.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious issue that can have long-term consequences for victims and their families. In North Carolina, domestic violence is defined as any one of the following acts committed by a spouse or family member:

– Intentionally causing bodily injury
– Attempting to cause bodily injury
– Placing the victim in fear of imminent bodily injury
– Continuing to harass or stalk the victim

Victims of domestic violence can seek a protective order from the court, which prohibits the abuser from contacting or coming near the victim. Violation of a protective order can result in criminal charges.


Adoption is a legal process that allows an individual or couple to become the legal parent(s) of a child who is not their biological child. In North Carolina, adoption can be either public or private. Public adoption involves adopting a child who is in the foster care system or available for adoption through the state’s Department of Social Services. Private adoption involves working with an adoption agency or attorney to find a child who needs a permanent home.

Adoptive parents in North Carolina must meet certain requirements, including a home study and background check. Birth parents must also consent to the adoption or have their rights terminated by the court.

Resources for North Carolina Family Law

North Carolina family law is complex, and navigating the legal system can be daunting. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help individuals and families facing legal issues. Some of the most useful resources include:

– North Carolina Legal Aid: Provides free legal help to low-income individuals and families in North Carolina
– North Carolina Bar Association: Offers legal referrals and resources for individuals seeking legal help
– North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Provides information on child support services, adoption services, and more
– North Carolina Court System: Offers information on family court processes and procedures, as well as court forms and instructions


North Carolina family law is a complex and ever-changing area of law. Understanding the laws that govern marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, adoption, and domestic violence can be critical to protecting your rights and interests. If you are facing legal issues related to your family, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process. With the right resources and support, you can navigate even the most challenging family law issues with confidence.

Quick Guide to North Carolina Family Law 

Where can I find a complete listing of NC Family Law?

If you are looking for revised statutes involving North Carolina family law, you should visit the following website under the NC General Assembly:

You will find helpful information for search the entire list of NC statutes at the end of this article, and this article will also guide the reader through commonly accessed chapters of NC family law such as marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody, and more.  If you are researching North Carolina family law for help with a legal matter, you should contact an attorney right away.

Specific North Carolina Family Law

After clicking on the link listed above, you can begin your search for some of the most requested NC Family Law sections with the help of this article.  This section will help you travel to some important sections of law quickly without having to search through the entire list of statutes:

Chapter 48 Adoptions

This section describes law and procedure for virtually any kind of adoption.  There are guidelines for a general adoption procedure, the adoption of minors, the adoption of adults, the adoption of stepchildren, much more.  For prohibited practices in any adoption under NC Family Law, visit Article 10 under this chapter.

Chapter 50 Divorce and Alimony

A large percentage of this chapter covers general procedures and North Caroline family law for alimony, child support, division of property, paternity, child support, and much more under Article 1.  If you are concerned with an expedited process for child support cases, reference Article 2.  If you need information on the Family Law Arbitration Act, reference Article 3.

Chapter 50-50C Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

This chapter of North Carolina family law provides all provisions within a child-custody case in a divorce procedure, separation, or other circumstance.  You can reference individual sections under Article 2 to research determining factors, temporary orders, and different kinds of custody.

Chapter 51 Marriage

This chapter of NC family law provides all laws for prerequisites, unlawful marriages, and procedures for marriage licenses.  You should reference Article 2 for information on marriage licenses.

How to Search NC Family Law

Consider the follow search techniques while researching North Carolina family law.  These search techniques will work for this website as well.

1. Stemming- this technique includes adding suffixes onto your search, such as divorces, divorcing, divorced, or more

2. Wildcards- a wildcard allows you to search multiple words using an asterisk, and adopt* will usually bring you to adopted, adoption, adopting, adoptive, adoptable, and more.

3. Missing variables- you can search for a missing variable with a question mark, and whom will bring results associated with woman, women, and more

4. Boolean Operators- you should always consider using and, or, and not to limit your searches as well

Of course, searching for a specific term will limit your search and bring you closer to what you’re looking for, but if you’re having trouble finding a term, you can use the methods above.