Child Custody Orders and Enforcement

I get lots of calls and questions about what happens when a parent violates the terms of a child custody order in North Carolina.  There is no automatic punishment in such a situation.  This is a surprise to many people.  Furthermore, law enforcement can not simply go and arrest somone because you accuse them of violating a court order.  One party has to go to court and ask a judge to hold the offending party in contempt of court.

The relevant NC statute is NCGS § 50‑13.3.  Enforcement of order for custody.  It provides:

(a)        An order providing for the custody of a minor child is  enforceable by proceedings for civil contempt, and its disobedience may be punished by proceedings for criminal contempt, as provided in Chapter 5A, Contempt, of the General Statutes.

Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 1‑294, an order pertaining to child custody which has been appealed to the appellate division is  enforceable in the trial court by proceedings for civil contempt during the pendency of the appeal. Upon motion of an aggrieved party, the court of the appellate division in which the appeal is pending may stay any order for civil contempt entered for child custody until the appeal is decided, if justice requires.

(b)        Any court of this State having jurisdiction to make an award of custody of a minor child in an action or proceeding therefor, shall have the power of injunction in such action or proceeding as provided  in Article 37 of Chapter 1 of the General Statutes and G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 65.


Raleigh divorce lawyer Scott Allen handles modification of custody, child custody, and temporary custody hearings and has over seventeen years of experience.  

If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at