Child Custody

NOTE: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes and are designed to help you in representing yourself. Please carefully review the directions and resources available to improve your performance in your case. Failure to read and follow the instructions may adversely impact your case. If you have any questions, please consult with an attorney.

I-CAN! Legal

Go to I-CAN! Legal for help preparing your court forms using an online questionnaire that is easy to understand and answer. I-CAN! also provides instructions for how to file the forms and proceed with the case.



The packet available in the SelfServe Center allows a party to file for permanent legal custody of a child. Please note that the forms assume that one parent is suing another.  If you are a grandparent or other non-parent relative, see the section below pertaining to your special situation. 


Please note that the SelfServe Center staff CANNOT provide legal advice.  Therefore, we cannot tell you if you should file or what you should file, but we can tell you that you must meet certain criteria to be eligible.  THE CHILD MUST HAVE LIVED IN NORTH CAROLINA FOR THE 6 MONTHS PRIOR TO FILING, OR SINCE BIRTH.  Additionally, if there is an EXISTING CUSTODY ORDER, you must notify the SelfServe Center staff.  This will affect which packet you receive.  Note: If you have a Domestic Violence Protective Order, you may still use these forms to establish permanent legal custody rights regarding the child(ren).


If you are grandparent or non-parent relative, you must make sure to list both living biological parents as Defendants on your forms.  This is regardless of what sort of role they have played in the child’s life.  Additionally, you MUST make sure to SERVE BOTH LIVING PARENTS.  You must serve a defendant even if he/she is incarcerated.  (Please see page on Service of Process).


After you get your packet, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!  Then fill out the forms by typing or printing neatly in ink.  You may fill them out at home or at the courthouse.  Please read the forms carefully as some have a “Verification” page. This means that they must be signed in the presence of a Notary Public.  If the document does require this, do not sign until you are in front of a Notary.  They can be likely found at banks, law firms, and insurance agencies.  A few may also be found in the Yellow Pages.  Notaries often charge a small fee and require you to show a picture ID for their services.  Be sure you have your documents already notarized when you take them to the Clerk’s Office to file. 

The SelfServe Center has a video available on filing for child custody.  It is suggested that you view it for procedural information.

After the forms are filled out and notarized, you must make 2 COPIES (one for yourself, one for the other party and the original for the file).

Please make sure that you have cash or a money order to pay for the filing fee associated with the action you are seeking to file.  Personal checks are not accepted.  If you want the Sheriff of Mecklenburg County to serve the documents on the defendant, please bring an additional $30.00, per defendant, (cash, cashier’s check or money order) made payable to the sheriff’s office.  If the defendant lives outside of Mecklenburg County, pay the service of process fee to the sheriff of the county where the defendant resides.  (Please refer to the “Service of Process” sheet in this packet for more information).

Take your completed forms, 2 copies and filing fee to the Civil Filing Department (Clerk’s Office) at 832 E. Fourth Street, Room 3725.


Your case involves complicated legal issues!  This packet describes the general process, but it is impossible to cover everything that may affect your rights.  If you get confused you should stop and seek advice from an attorney.  The staff of the SelfServe Center, Clerk of Court, Judge, or the Trial Court Administrator’s Office CANNOT GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE!

PLEASE…if you are thinking of contacting an attorney, do so as soon as possible.  Unless there is an emergency, try to contact an attorney at least 30 days before your hearing.  Waiting could decrease your chances of obtaining representation.



Filing Process
For step-by-step instructions, go to Child Custody Filing Process