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August 28, 2018
R. Clarke Speaks

How Does Moving Out of State Affect Child Custody Agreements in Wilmington, NC?

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Moving and Child Custody

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During the course of your life, you may relocate out of North Carolina for a number of reasons. This is true even for parents who have custody arrangements concerning their children. These reasons can include:

  • taking a new job
  • remarriage
  • moving to be closer to your family

How can leaving the state affect child custody for you? A Wilmington family law attorney can help.

Parents are expected to follow child custody orders and agreements as they are written. This means you must be familiar with and have an understanding of the terms concerning child custody. However, no child custody order or agreement is written in stone. There are ways to alter these terms depending on your particular situation.


Most parenting agreements contain ways to address life changes such as moving out of state. Generally, parents can execute amendments to their agreements to enact new terms as necessary. Before doing so, there may be negotiating provisions in which the parents must participate. For example, some agreements contain private mediation requirements.

These terms can be especially useful when parents cannot agree on how exactly to change their agreements. You will want to speak with a Wilmington child custody lawyer to ensure your agreement has appropriate provisions.

Although parties can privately agree on how to resolve child custody, no agreement can preclude a judge from stepping in. A court is allowed to set aside an agreement if doing so would protect the best interests of the child. Therefore, if parents cannot agree on how to modify an agreement, court action may be a possibility.
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Factors For Childs Best Interests

If you have a child custody order and are planning to move, consider filing a motion to modify the order. Section 50-13.7 of the North Carolina General Statutes governs child custody modifications. The statute requires a showing of a substantial change of circumstances before a court can modify a previous order.

Bear in mind that the substantial change of circumstances must affect the best interests of the child. A mere change in a party's residence is typically not enough to justify a modification. The court will examine several factors in determining whether a relocation affects the child's best interests.

These may include the motives of the parent moving, including a new job or career change. A court will also consider the effect of the move on the child's development and whether the relocation is detrimental. Every case is different, and the facts of your particular case should be discussed with a Wilmington child custody lawyer.


Sometimes a child custody order or parenting agreement imposes travel restrictions. For instance, the order or agreement may prevent a parent from moving out of North Carolina. Still, other limitations may restrict one parent from moving a certain distance away from the other.

This can be especially problematic for the custodial parent since the interests of the non-custodial parent need to be considered. Restrictions may also govern vacation with a child outside of North Carolina or possession and handling of a child's passport.


The question often arises whether a parent's relocation will justify changing jurisdiction of the child custody case. Under N.C.G.S. 50A-202, a North Carolina court has “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction” once it makes a proper child custody determination. There are provisions in the statute that require North Carolina to relinquish jurisdiction to another state in certain situations.

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Relocation of the parents and child can come into play when considering this sort of change. Temporary emergency jurisdiction can also affect this continuing jurisdiction. Your lawyer can answer questions about changing the jurisdiction of your child custody case.


There is no black and white answer that can possibly apply to every child custody case. Parents are advised to use caution with any major life decisions that may affect the best interests of the child. And always be mindful of any requirements spelled out in child custody orders or agreements. A Wilmington child custody lawyer is ready to assist you with relocation or other child custody matters.

Copyright © 2023. Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division. All Rights Reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division
300 N. 3rd St. Suite 310
Wilmington, NC 28401

(910) 769-7339https://speaksfamilylaw.com/

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