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, and Business Court.
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 programs 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 CourtsSuperior 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 program is in operation in the county, the Family Court will hear most guardianships.
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 locations in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.
Clerks of Superior Courts handle records for both Superior Courts and District Courts.
North Carolina District CourtsDistrict 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 programs that handle cases that would otherwise be filed in Superior or District Courts. In counties where a Family Court program exists, most domestic relations, mental health, and juvenile cases are heard by the Family Court. Some juvenile delinquency cases may be transferred to Superior Court for prosecution of the juvenile as an adult.
The Clerk of the Superior Court handles record keeping for both the superior court and the district court.
North Carolina Business CourtThe 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 locations in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.
North Carolina Family CourtsFamily Courts are specialized court programs that exist in some District Courts and handle domestic relations, mental health, and juvenile cases that would otherwise be heard by Superior or District Courts. In counties without Family Court programs, cases will be heard in the appropriate division of Superior or District Court.
Family Court programs 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.
North Carolina Court NotesSuperior Courts and District Courts may have specialized programs 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 programs 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.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Superior Courts||District Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|