NC Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents


Settling on child custody is a stressful and difficult situation when a breakup occurs. This is especially true when child custody matters involve unmarried parents. Many of the legal challenges unmarried parents face in a custody battle are the same as married parents. Fortunately, NC child custody laws are in place to determine child custody in these situations. A major consideration in child custody cases is based on whether you are the child’s mother or father.

Mother’s Custody Rights

Under NC child custody laws, the unmarried mother is considered to have the primary or natural right to custody of a child born when she is not married and if the father is not on the birth certificate. This means the mother has the legal right to custody, control, and care of the child. The mother’s rights are greater than those of the father or any other person in these circumstances. These rights can change under NC child custody laws, if the mother is proven unfit or has abandoned the child.

Father’s Custody Rights

An unmarried father who isn’t on the birth certificate won’t obtain primary physical custody over a mother who is a good parent (without a court order), but may be able to establish rights regarding custody or visitation. Under NC child custody laws, unmarried fathers who want to secure custody of a child must take legal action. By establishing paternity, the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate and be would, therefore, be notified of proceedings affecting custody. The father’s name on the child’s birth certificate will give him automatic recognition as the legal father and an equal amount of standing in court as the mother. A father’s rights to custody depend on his suitability as determined by the family court.

A family court using NC child custody laws will grant three types of custody:

  • Sole custody – Sole custody can be either physical or legal. Sole physical custody places the child to reside with one parent and is under their supervision. Sole legal custody grants one parent the responsibility and right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, health, and welfare.

  • Joint custody – Joint physical custody grants both parents significant, but not necessarily equal, time with the child. Joint legal custody gives both parents the right and the responsibility to make decisions about the education, health, and welfare of the child. One or both parents’ request for joint custody will be considered under NC child custody laws.

  • Third party custody – Under NC child custody laws, a third party who has no relationship with a child, does not have standing to seek custody. If the third party has a relationship with the child, they may be able to secure custody. Examples of this relationship include extended family, godparents, siblings, and neighbors. The court will consider the length of time the party has known the child, if the parent consents to the third party having custody, and whether the parent has maintained their parental responsibilities for the child.

The Real Deal in NC Child Custody Laws

Under NC child custody laws, a court will make child custody determinations based on the best interest of the child. The best interest refers to those who will best care for and meet the needs of the child. Circumstances surrounding the child’s well-being and welfare are also considered in a court’s “best interest” determination.

Child custody is a complex issue that requires the help of an experienced child custody attorney. At The Emblem Legal, we are knowledgeable about all aspects of family law, including child custody issues. Contact us today for a consultation. Let us help you defend your rights, and protect your children. Call us at 704-248-7683, or fill out the contact form on our website.

You can read more about the importance of establishing custody here.