North Carolina Family Court Records |
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What is North Carolina Family Court Records?

North Carolina Family Court records are official documents that contain all the information filed in the court during a family court proceeding. These documents include complaints and responses, calendars, court orders, telephone records, transcripts, etc.

What is a Family Court in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, family related cases are heard at the District Court. Family court judges make decisions on a variety of cases involving:

  • Child custody and visitation rights
  • Divorce
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Adoption
  • Dependency allegations
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Domestic violence
  • Parental rights termination
  • Commitments to mental health
  • Emancipation
  • Abortion waivers

They also decide financial issues relating to divorces such as post-separation support or alimony, parental rights, child support, and distribution of marital property. Individuals facing domestic violence can also get a protection order from the court.

How to Serve Family Court Paper in North Carolina

Interested parties can serve family court papers to another party after filing their summons and complaint, after which, the plaintiff will need to enter the “proof of service” to the court file. This document will enable the court hearing to hold because it will serve as proof to the Judge that summons and complaint were served correctly to the defendant. Without proof of service, the family court will not proceed with the hearing. According to the North Carolina law, the person filing the case cannot serve the papers personally. He or she will have to use an appropriate service method as contained in the North Carolina rules of civil procedure, Rule 4. The appropriate method of service for those living in the United States include:

The Plaintiff can visit the Sheriff’s office in the county where the defendant stays and request that the department serves the papers. This approach comes with a fee. If for any reason, the deputy sheriff is unable to serve the paperwork, a process server can be an alternative. However, he or she must have the legal backing to carry it out and must not have any relationship with both parties to the suit. The process server can also be used if the defendant lives outside North Carolina.

In most North Carolina counties, the deputy sheriff will fill the “return of service” section located at the back of the summons. Here they will state when they delivered the notice and how the defendant received it. After filing the form, they will send it to the Clerk Of Court’s office for filing, or they’ll post it to the plaintiff. The plaintiff will then need to register it with the Clerk Of Court before the case hearing. However, in the Wake County of North Carolina, the return of service would be sent directly to the clerk of court. If the defendant lives in another state, the law enforcement agencies of that state would either return the document to the Clerk Of Court or the plaintiff.

Individuals who used process service will have to get an affidavit of service from the person that delivered the papers. The affidavit will contain information such as:

  • The time, date, and place the defendant was served
  • How the document was served
  • The identity, contact information, and qualification of the process server
  • A statement that the process server could identify the defendant

The process server will also sign the affidavit of service before a Notary, and then, the plaintiff will file it with the clerk of court before the hearing takes place.

How to Serve Papers by Mail

Another method for serving papers is by posting a mail of the Summons and Complaints from the post office using a certified or registered mail, signature confirmation, or return receipt requested.

The sender (plaintiff) must include the home address of the defendant to ensure it gets delivered to the right place. There is also a fee attached to this service.

People who have delivered the served papers to the other party through mailing services will need to prepare an affidavit of service by themselves. The information in the affidavit will include:

  • A statement affirming that the summons and complaint have been served through US mail
  • When and how the mail was sent
  • Defendant’s address

The person will also sign the affidavit in the presence of a Notary public and attach the signature confirmation, green card, or electronic proof of service before filing it with the Clerk Of Court.

How to Serve by Designated Delivery Service

Individuals can also use Federal Express, DHL, and other authorized selected delivery services across the state/country to serve family court papers to the other party’s home address. The delivery service will issue a receipt for delivery signed by the defendant to the sender.

Individuals using a designated delivery service will also have to prepare an affidavit of service personally. The affidavit will contain the name of the delivery service used and the address where the paper was delivered. The receipt of delivery signed by the receiving party will also be attached to the affidavit. The plaintiff will then sign the affidavit before a Notary and file it in the court.

How to Serve by Publication

Serving papers by publication is the last resort when every other method fails. Here, the person filing for the lawsuit will look for a newspaper in the county where the defendant is believed to reside and publish the notice. But before the person takes this step, he or she must have exhausted all other options of serving the paperwork and tried to find the defendant’s address by:

  • Searching the internet
  • Visiting official websites of law enforcement agencies in the state
  • Contacting the department of motor vehicles
  • Asking family and friends of the defendant
  • Hiring a personal investigator to conduct the search

He or she would have to prove that all these steps have been taken without yielding any result before approaching the Judge for authorization to serve the notice by publication.

The notice being published must be according to the terms spelled out in Rule 4 of the North Carolina rules of civil procedure. The notice will appear in the papers once a week for three consecutive weeks.

Individuals who choose the publication process will prepare an affidavit of due diligence stating all the other methods of services tried and how they tried to locate the defendant before arriving at the publication method. The individual would sign this affidavit with a Notary present.

Aside from the affidavit of due diligence, the court will also require an affidavit of publication gotten from the newspaper where the notice was published. The affidavit will contain a copy of the notice along with the dates they were published. It must bear the signature of an authorized person working for the newspaper. The signing should be in the presence of a Notary public, and an affidavit should be filed in the court before the hearing takes place.

How to Look Up Family Law Cases in North Carolina

Individuals interested in looking up the family law cases in North Carolina would have to visit the county where the lawsuit was filed or currently heard. The directory of courts in the state would help in locating the specific court and the business hours when visitors can come.

Individuals can access public records online from third-party websites. These sites can help retrieve vital information that would be useful when visiting the court in person. These sites help in performing an extensive search that cuts across counties in North Carolina. Individuals using these sites to search should know some vital information about the case, such as the name of at least one of the parties involved and the location of the court. Sites like,, are some of the websites that individuals can use when searching for family court records in North Carolina.

Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.

What is Contempt of Family Court in North Carolina

In North Carolina, contempt of court means the disregard or violation of a court order by one of the parties of a lawsuit, which results in the other party filing a motion to the court asking that they hold the defaulting party in contempt. When a Judge pronounces an order for marital property division, child custody, child support, visitation orders, etc. and a party defiles it, the judge can use various means to make the person obey like incarceration.

Are Family Court Records Available to the Public in North Carolina?

Like other court records, the North Carolina Family Court records are open to the public for inspection. However, the court has the right to limit access to certain documents. For example, the judges’ notes may not be accessed by members of the public. Records relating to child abuse or neglect are also inaccessible by the public.

How to Request Family Court Records in North Carolina

Documents relating to court proceedings in family courts are in the Clerk of Court’s office where the case was filed or heard. Individuals can choose to view or make copies of the record. Making copies comes with a fee. The public terminals in any county where a Clerk of Court’s office is located are also free to use in searching.

Copies of divorce judgment can also be reproduced at the Clerk of Court’s office, where the parties were divorced. Individuals that wish to make copies should come with the file number, names of parties, and other accompanying information. The Clerk would provide information about the fees and acceptable means of payment.

Court transcripts can be obtained from the court reporter that was present during the court proceeding. the reporter will charge a fee to prepare the transcript. If the transcript is in an audio recording form, individuals can request it from the Clerk of Court’s office where the complainant filed the case. Individuals can access confidential audio transcripts if they can get permission from the court.

Persons seeking Family Court records in person should have a means of Identification such as a passport, driver’s license, state-issued ID, U.S resident card, voter’s ID, or military ID. It is also essential to know the case number before visiting the court to enable them to retrieve the correct record.

Additionally, publicly available records may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and North Carolina divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

Are Divorce Records Public or Sealed in North Carolina

Divorce records are also public records, which means they are open to the public. The files can be accessed in the Clerk of Court’s office where it was filed or the Department of Vital Records in North Carolina. Individuals can inspect them for free or pay about 25 cents a page to make copies. However, not all information is considered public. Records may be redacted to protect confidential information such as:

  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Account information
  • Social security numbers
  • Financial details
  • State identification number
  • Employer taxpayer

These details are redacted from the documents in the public record. Other details, such as full names, addresses, marriage, and separation dates, are open for viewing. Victims of domestic violence are not mandated to provide their address. Parties to a divorce case can choose to maintain their privacy by using their attorney’s address or the North Carolina Attorney General office address.


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