North Carolina Court Records
Where To Find Family Court Records In North Carolina?
North Carolina Family Courts handle all domestic and family-related disputes arising in the state’s courts. Records of cases determined before the family courts are held by the Clerk of Courts. Cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the family courts can include marital dissolution, child support, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, dependency, child abuse/neglect, and adoption cases. The court clerks and court reporters of the appellate-level courts also maintain updated details of family cases appealed and reviewed within their jurisdiction.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What Is Family Law In North Carolina?
Family Law in the State of North Carolina pertains to statutes and case models that clearly define judicial processes for domestic matters. Ten chapters in the North Carolina General Statutes dictate the rules of marriage, divorce, custody, and other family matters.
Chapter 48 explains the state’s adoption eligibility criteria as well as post-adoption protocols. This statute also ensures that the adoption is in the best interest of the adopted child(ren).
Chapter 48A covers juvenile proceedings, legal limitations of minors, and also points out circumstances where parental consent is needed. This chapter also covers questions of parental liability and the inheritance of minor beneficiaries.
Chapter 49 is entitled “An act concerning the support of children of parents not married to each other.” This statute aims to protect the legal position of children born out of wedlock and also prosecute willful neglect of such children by their parents.
Chapter 49A focuses on paternity, especially the legal parentage of children conceived through artificial insemination.
Chapter 50 is the general statute for divorce, alimony, and child support. This chapter explains the outcome of a divorce, stipulates alimony terms, and furnishes custody entitlements. This chapter also details child support terms as well as agreements pertaining to medical support and health insurance coverage for minor children.
Chapter 50A is headed, the “Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.” This act is formulated to discourage inter-state parental kidnapping and to ensure that the state’s custody law is uniform with the statutes of other states in the United States.
Chapter 50B focuses on domestic violence, victim’s rights, and enforcement of protective orders. This chapter provides the procedures for filing and obtaining protection from abusive partners. It also dictates the punishment for violations of protection orders and domestic violence trespass.
Chapter 50C designates the procedures for filing and obtaining civil no-contact orders from stalkers that are not sexually related to their victims. It also provides pertinent information on the duration and extension of an order as well as the punishment for its violation.
Chapter 50D is titled “Permanent Civil No Contact Order Against Sex Offender on Behalf of Crime Victims.” This statute offers protection to victims of sexual offenses such as rape. It indicates the civil filing processes, fees to be paid, and enforcement of orders. It also stipulates the punishments for those sexual offenders that end up violating permanent restrictions.
Chapter 51 is a family law statute that includes conditions of marriage and solemnization. This code explains the processes of entering formal marriage in the state, the validity of a same-sex marriage, and the protocols for a marriage between underage parties. Chapter 52 further details the powers and liabilities of married persons over properties, contracts, and torts actions between two married persons in the state.
What Are Family Court Cases And Records In North Carolina?
In North Carolina, District Court Judges designated as family court judges hear the following case types:
- Contested Divorce: These are cases involving legal dissolution of marital union in which the parties have a child or children below the age of 18
- Uncontested Divorce: These are also dissolution, separation, or annulment cases but in which the parties are not parents to any child or children below the age of 18
- Child Custody and Visitation Rights are cases where the parties are in dispute over legal and physical custody of minor children are in dispute
- Child Support and Alimony: These are divorce-related financial claims where issues like equitable distribution of properties, payment of joint debts, child maintenance allowances, and alimony are handled
- Civil No Contact Orders: These are cases where either party seeks an order of protection from the court. Such cases also return to the court if the orders are violated
- Paternity Cases: These are cases brought before the family court to establish a male party is indeed the biological father of a child
- Juvenile Delinquency cases are criminal cases involving minors that are less than the age of 17
- Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency allegations are lawsuits following bad and unhealthy parent-child relationship
- Termination of Parental Rights cases where a parent legally relinquishes their parental rights to a child
- Domestic Violence are charges involving physical, sexual, and psychological assaults on an intimate partner
- Adoption: These are closed cases where a party or two parties apply for a new and permanent establishment of a parent-child relationship with a child that does not share biological connections with them
- Name Changes: are civil cases where a divorced party petitions the court to reinstate their maiden name or pre-marriage surname
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Are Family Court Cases Public Records In North Carolina?
Family court case records are designated public records in North Carolina. However, because of the sensitive nature of some cases brought before the family courts, some of these records may not be available to everyone. The various court clerks are tasked with facilitating access to divorce records as well as records of child custody or visitation cases. Other records involving juveniles such as abuse, neglect, and dependency are confidential records that are strictly limited to persons with direct interests to the records.
How Do I Find Family Court Records In North Carolina?
All Clerk of Courts in North Carolina maintain records of family cases filed within their jurisdictions. As such, those looking to find family court records can do so by querying the court where the cases of interest were filed. These records are subject to local retrieval guidelines. As such, the process of obtaining a record varies from one court clerk to another.
In the general sense, all courts allow interested persons to submit family court records requests in person. Visitors can opt to find and view copies of their family record of interest using the public self-service terminal located at each courthouse. Searching these terminals requires case number, or other information specific to every case. To obtain paper files for family court cases, requestors will need to make written requests to the applicable clerk’s office. Some clerks provide request forms to facilitate the process.
Other request methods featured by some clerks include by mail and email. Contact the clerk using the NC Courthouse Directory to enquire about their preferred request methods, and copy fees.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, juvenile records, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?
North Carolina courts do not maintain a single repository finding court records. Trial courts in North Carolina do not maintain online search tools for finding court records. Accessing family court dockets, transcripts, and case records are only possible by visiting, mailing, and, where applicable, emailing the court clerks.
Dockets of unsatisfactory family case verdicts that have been challenged to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals are available through the Document Library Search function hosted on the NC’s e-filing site. Maximize search results by providing as much specific details as possible including:
- Representative attorney’s name
- Case number
- Case title
- Defendant or plaintiff”s name
- Case filing date
- File type
- Specific appellate court
What Is North Carolina Custody Law?
The laws governing child custody in North Carolina are dictated by the N.C General Statutes § 50–13.2. Under this statute, the best interest and welfare of a minor child greatly favors who the custodial parent, agency, or institution will be in a disputed custody case. In determining the minor’s best interest, the court considers the following relevant factors:
- Presence of domestic violence between both parties
- The safety, continuity, and stability of the child
- Either parent’s alcohol abuse history
- Either parent’s living condition
Although North Carolina has since abolished the “Tender Year Doctrine” which favors mothers in custody, the age and preferences of a minor may still be considered by a presiding judge. Depending on the findings of the court, the court may then grant joint custody to both parents or sole custody to one party. If determined to be in the best interest of a child, the sitting judge or jury may extend custody to two or more persons including grandparents.
North Carolina recognizes two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. As the name implies, a parent with physical custody has the right to live with and care for the minor around the clock or part of the time. On the other hand, legal custody refers to the right to make vital decisions about a child. In the state, both physical and legal custody are awarded using two parameters including: sole custody and joint custody.
When custody rights are restricted to a single parent, it’s called sole custody. Parents who share equal rights over a form of custody are described to have joint custody. North Carolina courts generally gravitate towards awarding joint legal custody to both parents; primary physical custody to one parent, while the other has secondary/visitation rights. This arrangement prevents unnecessary disruption of the child’s school and life routine. Even then, the sole custodian does not have the legal rights to deny the other parent access to the child without a competent court order.
Furthermore, considering parental kidnap and possible inter-state movement of either parent, the State of North Carolina enacted the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Usually, after a family breakup, a custodial parent may decide to move to another state often due to a new job opportunity, to return to extended family, or to pursue a new relationship. The other parent may move or remain in the primary state. This act was introduced in 1997 to close the gap between the different states’ custody laws. Under the UCCJEA, the state with jurisdiction over custody matters arising is the state where the child lives. This is usually the child’s home state or the state where the child has lived for up to six months prior to the filing of the case.
Generally, custody case hearings are open to the public domain unless otherwise determined by the judge; in which case, the attendance is reduced to people with direct interest in the case.
Note that the above is a brief summary of North Carolina’s Custody Law. They are not intended to represent the complete summary of all custody law legislation in the state. They are also not intended to serve as legal advice. Persons involved in child custody disputes should seek legal assistance from family lawyers in the state.
How To Find Family Court Lawyers In North Carolina?
Because family cases are usually emotional and sensitive, it is recommended to seek legal aid before officially filing a case. The North Carolina State Bar Association offers Lawyer Referral Services (LRS) on their webpage. Potential plaintiffs and persons sued to any of the state’s family court can find a family law specialist in the following steps:
- Open the Lawyer Referral Service webpage
- Select the “Find a Lawyer Online (Self-Referral)" to be automatically launched to the self-service page. Here make sure to choose family law as well as the specific legal issue from the drop-down menus. Narrow the search results by selecting one county or multiple counties. Click on search and then complete the contact information step and the family lawyers in selected areas will show up
- Alternatively, click on the “request a referral” icon to get referrals from a professional attorney. This can also be done by calling (919) 677–8574. Note that professional referrals cost $50 for the initial 30-minute consultation with the attorney
North Carolinians can also find a convenient list of family lawyers in their area by checking the North Carolina State Bar Legal Specialization website.
Lawyers hired through the LRS do not represent people for free. Persons who qualify can get free legal answers from North Carolinian Volunteer Attorneys of the American Bar Association. Those who do not qualify can use the resources provided on the NC Legal Aid’s Self Help Clinics.
For free representation, visit the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center to view the voluntary legal services providers in the state.