Police Involvement in North Carolina Child Custody Cases (Legislative Update)

Police Involvement in North Carolina Child Custody Cases (Legislative Update)

What is the role of police in child custody cases?  Can law enforcement take physical custody of a child in an effort to enforce a North Carolina child custody order? New legislation which will go into effect October 1, 2017 provides clarity on the subject; carefully defining the limited circumstances in which law enforcement may be utilized.

Senate Bill 53 updates N.C.G.S. 50-13.5(d)(3) to state “[a] temporary custody order that requires a law enforcement officer to take physical custody of a minor child shall be accompanied by a warrant to take physical custody of a minor child as set forth in G.S. 50A-311.” Additionally, the bill updates N.C.G.S. 50-13.3 to state “[n]otwithstanding subsections (a) and (b) of this section, a warrant to take physical custody of a child issued by a court pursuant to G.S. 50A-311 is enforceable throughout this State.”

Prior to the new legislation, courts were unsure if N.C.G.S. 50A-311 applied to custody orders issued by North Carolina courts.  N.C.G.S. 50A-311 has always been understood to authorize the use of law enforcement to enforce a foreign custody order if the Court determines a child is in danger of being physically harmed or taken from North Carolina.  In such cases, a Court has the power to issue a warrant directing officers to take immediate physical custody of the child and to place the child in the physical custody of the appropriate person.

Under the new legislation, it is now clear that law enforcement may be utilized to enforce temporary custody orders entered in North Carolina if a warrant is issued pursuant to N.C.G.S. 50A-311.  That means that, if a petitioner believes the child is in immediate physical danger or the child is likely to be removed from North Carolina, he or she can petition the Court for a warrant to take physical custody of the child, pending a hearing on the matter.

The statutory language indicates that warrants to take physical custody of a child issued in accordance with G.S. 50A-311 are appropriate remedies for the enforcement of temporary North Carolina custody orders.   Both updates make it clear that a warrant is needed in order to involve the police in a custody action and a warrant may only be issued if a judge finds, based on testimony, that the child is in immediate physical danger or is likely to be removed from North Carolina.

If you believe you need the assistance of law enforcement in your custody case or that your child is in physical danger or is likely to be removed from North Carolina, you should speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney in your area.

Prorolo connects clients and attorneys in North Carolina.  Take the first step in setting up a consultation with an attorney in your area.   Find a child custody attorney or submit your issue and we’ll find help for you.

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