What Can I Do if My Former Spouse Does Not Follow the Child Custody Order in North Carolina?

Child custody arrangements are crucial for ensuring the well-being and stability of children following a separation or divorce. When one parent does not adhere to the agreed-upon or court-ordered custody plan, it can create significant stress and disruption. If your former spouse is not following the child custody order in North Carolina, there are several steps you can take to address the issue and protect your rights and the best interests of your child.

Understanding Child Custody Orders in North Carolina

A child custody order is a legally binding document issued by a North Carolina court that outlines the custody arrangement for the children of separated or divorced parents. These orders detail where the child will live, visitation schedules, and decision-making authority regarding the child’s upbringing. Both parents are legally obligated to follow the terms of the custody order.

Steps to Take When a Custody Order is Violated

  1. Document the Violations
    • Keep detailed records of each instance when your former spouse fails to comply with the custody order. Note the dates, times, and nature of the violations, as well as any communication related to the incidents.
  2. Communicate with Your Former Spouse
    • Attempt to resolve the issue through open and respectful communication. Sometimes misunderstandings or logistical issues can be resolved through discussion. Ensure you keep a record of these communications.
  3. Review the Custody Order
    • Ensure you fully understand the terms of the custody order. Sometimes, what appears to be a violation may be a misunderstanding of the order’s specifics. Review the document to confirm the exact provisions and any potential ambiguities.
  4. Seek Mediation
    • If direct communication is unsuccessful, consider mediation. A neutral third-party mediator can help facilitate a resolution and ensure both parties understand and adhere to the custody agreement.
  5. File a Motion for Contempt
    • If your former spouse continues to violate the custody order, you may need to take legal action by filing a motion for contempt with the court. Contempt proceedings can compel compliance with the order and may result in penalties for the violating parent.

Filing a Motion for Contempt in North Carolina

Filing a motion for contempt involves the following steps:

  1. Consult with an Attorney
    • Seek legal advice to understand your rights and the process of filing a motion for contempt. An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the procedure and represent your interests in court.
  2. Prepare the Motion
    • Your attorney will help you prepare a motion for contempt, detailing the specific violations of the custody order and providing evidence to support your claims.
  3. File the Motion
    • The motion is filed with the North Carolina court that issued the original custody order. The court will review the motion and schedule a hearing.
  4. Attend the Hearing
    • Both you and your former spouse will be required to attend the hearing. Present your evidence and explain how the custody order has been violated. Your former spouse will also have the opportunity to respond.
  5. Court’s Decision
    • The court will decide whether your former spouse is in contempt of the custody order. If found in contempt, the court may impose penalties such as fines, modification of the custody arrangement, or, in severe cases, jail time.

Modifying the Custody Order

If the violations are persistent and significantly impact your child’s well-being, you might consider requesting a modification of the custody order. Courts in North Carolina can modify custody arrangements if there is a substantial change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child.

Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests

The primary concern in any custody dispute is the well-being of your child. Taking appropriate and timely action when custody orders are violated is crucial to ensure stability and consistency in your child’s life.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Navigating child custody disputes can be complex and emotionally challenging. Consulting with a family law attorney can provide the support and guidance you need to protect your rights and your child’s best interests.

If you are in Wake, Cumberland, or Harnett counties and need assistance with enforcing a child custody order, contact our office for expert legal advice and representation. We are dedicated to helping you achieve a resolution that benefits you and your child.


When a former spouse does not follow the child custody order, it is essential to take appropriate steps to address the situation. By documenting violations, communicating effectively, and seeking legal recourse when necessary, you can protect your rights and ensure the best possible outcome for your child. For personalized assistance and legal support, reach out to our experienced family law team today.