North Carolina law allows for the modification of a child custody order under certain circumstances.   This article explores the  law and the circumstances allowing the trial court to modify a custody order. This article assumes that a North Carolina custody order is in place.  A separation agreement that has not been incorporated is not a court order.  A parenting agreement or consent order that has been signed by the parents and the judge is a court order.  An order of a different state that has been registered to allow modification is also the kind of order that can be modified. Recall that if a judge hears a child custody case where there is no order in place or there is only a temporary order, the legal standard in North Carolina is the best interest of the child. In a modification proceeding there are actually two legal hurdles before a court may change the order.  G.S. § 50-13.7(a) allows an child custody modification “at any time, upon a motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances,” except as otherwise provided in G.S. § 50-13.7A.  (50-13.7A deals with certain situations where a parent is in military service). The best interest of the child is not considered until there has been a showing of a substantial change affecting the child.    The district court judge must find a substantial change of circumstances before it can change an existing order.
The party seeking modification has burden of showing changed circumstances. However, after there has been a showing of a substantial change affecting the child, neither party has a burden of proof on the question of best interest. There is no statutory amount of time that must pass before a motion to modify may be filed as long as the person filing the motion can meet their burden and prove a substantial change of circumstances. So what kinds of circumstances may the court consider?  It is not possible to make an exhaustive list but the basic rules are:
  • The change of circumstances must be substantial;
  • The district court judge must consider changes that have salutary effects upon the child and those which will have adverse effects upon the child;
  • Speculative evidence that a substantial change may occur sometime in the future will not support a change in custody.
  • The evidence must demonstrate a connection between the substantial change in circumstances and the welfare of the child.
Raleigh family law attorney Scott Allen handles child custody cases every day  and has over twenty-three years of experience.  If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at

"Representation Matters"

"Scott was wonderful throughout the long process and it was clear to me that Scott was knowledgeable of case-law and the Wake County Court system, as well as being especially strong in court. His representation resulted in additional parenting time following the temporary custody trial and since the case proceeded to a full trial, I was ultimately awarded the custody arrangement I was seeking. My daughters reside in Wake County and now if my ex-wife chooses to relocate, I’ll have full legal custody of the girls. Throughout the process, Scott was responsive, provided extremely helpful advice, and genuinely cared about the outcome of my case. I would strongly recommended Scott’s representation for custody matters."

Jon H

"Cared About My Situation"

I was out of options and Scott was there to help. I have spoken to or met many attorney's in Wake County and Scott was the only one that REALLY actually cared about my situation. It sounds cliche' but it's not. I could clearly tell that Scott had given a lot of thought to my case. Scott has extensive knowledge of the law. That knowledge coupled with his cerebral approach and courtroom presence were a savior. - Ken

"Secured My Life"

"Scott Allen and his team were sensational during my divorce proceedings. They kept me well-informed of the procedures, requirements, and options. They took the time to explain to me at every step of the decisions and options as we moved forward in my life. Their support, knowledge and presence were comforting in my time of need and help me get through the ordeal. While no divorce is pleasant outcome they help me secure my life and begin a new chapter with a fresh start. Their extensive knowledge of the law and arbitration and negotiation skills were invaluable in getting a good settlement and resolution. I am very pleased that I selected Scott and his team to represent me. I would emphatically recommend Scott and to anyone who is facing a divorce or possibility of a divorce."

Steven D

"Fought for My Rights"

I wanted to go to court and he went with it. During the initial hearing and all the subsequent hearings he fought for my rights and presented my case diligently and proved the claims by the other party to be false. Most of the lawyers, will tell you settle as it saves them and the court time, but it might not be always in your best interest. Scott is not those lawyers, he really cares about his clients and is not afraid to litigate or fight for his client’s right in the court. - Susan

"I Began to Sleep Better at Night"

Scott Allen took my divorce case after my first lawyer failed to stand for my rights.Scott took the case and I began to sleep better at night. My marriage ended from abuse so I was very weary. - Felicia