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Finding Court Records in North Carolina

North Carolina Courts Overview

It helps to understand how the North Carolina state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The North Carolina trial court system consists of Superior Courts, District Courts, Business Court, and Family Courts.

North Carolina has a unified court system referred to as the General Court of Justice. Superior Courts and District Courts are the trial court divisions of the North Carolina General Court of Justice. The North Carolina Business Court is a specialized court division composed of Superior Court judges that handle complex business and commercial cases. Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but generally handle cases beyond the jurisdiction of District Courts. District Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. The North Carolina General Court of Justice has also established Family Court divisions in some District Courts to handle domestic relations, mental health and juvenile cases that would otherwise be heard by Superior or District Courts.

If you prefer, you can start your search by going to North Carolina Courts by County.

North Carolina Superior Courts

Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, and generally handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of District Courts.

Criminal cases heard by Superior Courts include all felonies, some misdemeanors and lesser-included offenses.

Civil cases heard by Superior Courts include general civil claims with more than $10,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs. Superior Courts also handle cases without financial thresholds, such as certain types of injunctions and requests for declaratory relief, constitutional rights, eminent domain, most administrative agency decisions, adoptions and complex business issues.

Superior Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings in probate and the administration of estates for decedents. Superior Courts have original jurisdiction over most guardianship cases, but if a Family Court division is in operation in the area, the Family Court division will hear most guardianships.

Family Court divisions operate out of District Courts and typically handle cases involving divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, child neglect, child abuse, termination of parental rights, paternity, abortion consent waivers, guardianships and involuntary commitments. Family Court divisions do not exist in all courts, and when no Family Court division has territorial jurisdiction over a case, the case will be heard in an appropriate division of Superior or District Court.

A Superior Court may have specialized divisions for Adult Drug Treatment Court, Family Drug Treatment Court, and Youth Treatment Court.

The North Carolina Business Court is a specialized court division composed of Superior Court judges that handle complex business cases with significant or complicated issues of corporate or commercial law. The Business Court handles cases for the entire state from three main locations in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Clerks of Superior Courts handle records for both Superior Courts and District Courts.

North Carolina District Courts

District Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.

Criminal cases heard by District Courts include most misdemeanors, most infractions and municipal ordinance violations. District Courts also conduct preliminary hearings for all types of criminal cases and can receive guilty pleas in some felony cases.

Civil cases heard by District Courts include general civil claims for less than $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. District Courts also handle appeals of county game commission decisions, domestic violence protection cases and requests for civil no-contact orders.

District Courts each have a Small Claims Court division that handles most general civil claims for less than $5000, exclusive of interest and costs. Small Claims Court divisions handle claims for the recovery of money, the recovery of personal property and summary ejectment (eviction).

District Courts also handle domestic relations cases and juvenile matters. Domestic relations cases include divorce, annulment, domestic violence protection, child custody, child support, paternity, equitable distribution of property, alimony and cases related to separation or property settlement agreements between spouses. Juvenile matters include juvenile dependency, child neglect, child abuse, emancipation, termination of parental rights, foster care, judicial consent for abortion, juveniles alleged to be undisciplined and juvenile delinquency.

Some District Courts operate specialized Family Court divisions that handle cases that would otherwise be filed in Superior or District Courts. If a Family Court division exists, most domestic relations, mental health and juvenile cases are heard by the Family Court division. Some juvenile delinquency cases may be transferred to Superior Court for prosecution of the juvenile as an adult.

A District Court may have specialized divisions for Adult Drug Treatment Court, Family Drug Treatment Court, and Youth Treatment Court.

The Clerk of the Superior Court handles record keeping for both the superior court and the district court.

North Carolina Business Court

The North Carolina Business Court is a specialized court division composed of Superior Court judges that handle complex business cases with significant or complicated issues of corporate or commercial law.

Cases generally handled by the Business Court include issues of securities law, antitrust law, State trademark law, most unfair competition laws, intellectual property, the Internet, electronic commerce and biotechnology.

The Business Court handles cases for the entire state from three main locations in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh.

North Carolina Family Courts

Family Courts are specialized court divisions that exist in some District Courts. These court divisions are currently in a limited pilot phase, and may expand in the future.

Family Court divisions handle domestic relations, mental health and juvenile cases that would otherwise be heard by Superior or District Courts. In areas without Family Court divisions, cases will be heard in the appropriate division of Superior or District Court.

Family Court divisions typically handle domestic relations and juvenile cases, including divorce, child custody, visitation, child support, domestic violence protection, juvenile delinquency, child protection, termination of parental rights, paternity, abortion consent waivers, guardianships and involuntary commitments.

Family Court divisions currently operate in Anson, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cumberland, Durham, Greene, Halifax, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Pender, Pitt, Randolph, Richmond, Stanly, Union, Wake, and Wilson Counties.

North Carolina Drug Treatment Courts

Superior Courts and District Courts may have specialized divisions for Adult Drug Treatment Court, Family Drug Treatment Court and Youth Treatment Court.

Adult Drug Treatment Courts work with eligible repeat offenders. Family Drug Treatment Courts work with eligible parents who risk losing custody of their children due to abuse or neglect. Youth Treatment Courts work with eligible youth in the juvenile justice system. Some Drug Treatment Court divisions have a Mental Health Treatment Court subdivision or component.

These court divisions are currently in a limited pilot phase, and may expand in the future.

Where to Find Court Cases in North Carolina

The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of North Carolina court.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil Superior Courts District Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases  
General Civil - Limited Some Cases Some Cases
Small Claims   Most or All Cases
Civil Equity Most or All Cases  
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases  
Foreclosures and Liens Some Cases Some Cases
Real Estate Title and Boundary Some Cases Some Cases
Landlord / Tenant Some Cases Most or All Cases
Ordinance Violations   Most or All Cases
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Some Cases Most or All Cases
Administrative Agency Appeals Most or All Cases Some Cases
Criminal Superior Courts District Courts
Felony Most or All Cases Some Cases
Felony Preliminary Hearings Some Cases Some Cases
Misdemeanors Some Cases Most or All Cases
Ordinance Violations   Most or All Cases
Juvenile   Most or All Cases
Traffic and Infractions   Most or All Cases
Domestic Relations Superior Courts District Courts
Divorce   Most or All Cases
Child Custody and Visitation   Most or All Cases
Child Support   Most or All Cases
Paternity   Most or All Cases
Domestic Violence Protection Order Some Cases Most or All Cases
Juvenile Superior Courts District Courts
Adoptions Some Cases Most or All Cases
Juvenile Delinquency   Most or All Cases
Child Abuse and Neglect   Most or All Cases
Termination of Parental Rights   Most or All Cases
Children in Need of Supervision   Most or All Cases
Mental Health Superior Courts District Courts
Involuntary Commitments Some Cases Most or All Cases
Other Mental Health Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Probate Superior Courts District Courts
Wills & Estates Most or All Cases  
Name Changes Some Cases Some Cases
Trusts Most or All Cases  
Guardianships and Conservatorships Some Cases Some Cases

Note: Some courts in North Carolina are not included in the chart above. Please use the following links for descriptions and types of cases heard:
 
  Family Courts

Find North Carolina Courts by County

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