Frequently Asked Questions

Does my child’s opinion matter to the court?

The opinion of the child can have a strong influence on the court, but this issue is normally left to the discretion of the judge. A number of factors, such as age and maturity of the child, are considered by the judge in determining what weight to give the wishes of a child. If the child is of sufficient age, his/her wishes can be given considerable weight, but will never be controlling of the court.

Can my children testify?

Typically, your children will not have to testify in court; however, the answer to this question is usually left to the discretion of the judge. While testimony of children may be heard in open court on a witness stand, usually a judge will meet privately in his or her chambers with a child if given permission by both parents.

Do we have to go to court?

You always have the ability to try and settle issues outside of a courtroom. In fact, in North Carolina mediation is required in almost all counties. These mediation sessions can be either private or court-ordered.

In Mecklenburg County, parties are required to attend two sessions of mediation. However, in certain circumstances a court may waive the mediation requirement if circumstances prevent a mediation hearing from being helpful. Typically, instances of abuse, domestic violence, or distance between parties are necessary in order to have this requirement waived. Obviously, if mediation and private negotiation are not successful, then the parties must proceed to a court hearing.

Can I ever modify my order?

All orders relating to children are modifiable by a court. If there is a change in circumstances, custody orders are not permanent and can be freely modified. In many circumstances, the needs and preferences of a child will change as they grow. As a result, it may be particularly important to change an order. In order to make a modification, the party seeking the change must show a substantial change of circumstances that impact the welfare and interests of the child.