Depending on a parent’s perspective, it may be a huge relief or a cause of a concern that, in North Carolina, child custody and parenting time decisions are not set in stone. This is true even when the parents made an agreement about such issues and one of them wants to change the agreement.

The logic behind allowing a parent to ask a court to change custody and parenting time is that, as circumstances change in a family’s life, the best interests of the child who is the subject of a custody order may change as well. In other words, what worked at one point in the child’s life may over time no longer be the ideal or even the best custody arrangement.

On the other hand, North Carolina courts and lawmakers do not want to create instability in a child’s life or give a parent the opportunity to file court litigation that is frivolous or harassing in nature. As a result, there are limits on when a parent can ask for a change of custody or parenting time.

Specifically, the parent wanting to change custody will have to demonstrate that there has been what the law calls a “substantial change in circumstances” since the last custody order was entered. As is always the case in custody matters, a parent must also convince a judge that a change in custody is in the best interest of the children involved.

What constitutes a substantial change is a matter that is often up for debate, and it can even depend heavily on the legitimate personal preferences and thought processes of the judge hearing the case. This is why it is often advisable for a Statesville resident to have the help of a family law attorney with knowledge of the local court system when requesting a change of custody.