Advocating for Grandparents’ Custody Rights in North Carolina: Legal Strategies and Considerations

Advocating for Grandparents’ Custody Rights in North Carolina: Legal Strategies and Considerations

What are Grandparents’ Custodial Rights in North Carolina?

Grandparents have limited rights to seek custody or visitation of grandchildren in the State of North Carolina. However, courts do allow custody to be pursued if the familial situation warrants it. According to the North Carolina legislature, any person, agency, organization, or institution may pursue the adoption of a minor child.

The motivating factor for every family court is what is in the child’s best interest. When determining the child’s best interest, the court will review the facts and information presented with great focus on the safety and security of both the child and the adoptive parents.

When Can Grandparents Obtain Custody?

For grandparents to obtain custody, they must prove that the child’s parents are unfit and have acted in a way that contradicts their constitutional rights as parents. If only one parent is deemed unfit, then the child’s parental family will still be considered appropriate as long as the other parent is suitable. Factors that deem a parent as unfit include:

  • Mental instability or illness
  • Being unable to care for the child financially
  • Drug abuse
  • Having the child in dangerous environments
  • Abandoning the child

A child is not considered abandoned as long as the parents remain in contact with the caregiver and return when they are ablto care for the child adequatelyld.

To further aid the chances of a grandparent receiving custody, they must show that they have a parent-like relationship with the grandchild, such as:

  • How much time is spent with the grandchild
  • How the grandparent provides for the grandchild
  • How involved the grandparent is with schooling
  • How involved the grandparent is with extracurricular activities

To consider grandparents for custody, a judge may consider the following factors:

  • The grandparent’s economic situation
  • The physical and mental health of the grandparents
  • The emotional, spiritual, and moral well-being of the grandparents
  • Availability to the child
  • Caretaking ability
  • Home environment
  • Length and strength of relationship with the child
  • The child’s preference, if deemed appropriate

Can Grandparents Modify an Existing Custody Order?

If the dynamics of a child’s home or school significantly change, the court may be willing to consider modifying an existing custody order. Because the court bases decisions on the welfare of the child, modifications of a custody or visitation order may be made if:

  • The child’s safety is violated
  • The child’s relationship with a caregiver deteriorates
  • The child’s home or living situation becomes unhealthy or unsafe
  • The child’s caregiver is abusing drugs or alcohol
  • The child’s caregiver is unable to care for the child
  • The child’s caregiver wishes to move from the area, making the current agreement untenable

What are Grandparents’Visitation Rights in North Carolina?

North Carolina law grants courts the authority to provide visitation rights for any grandparent of the child at the discretion of the court. Following a divorce or the death of a parent, a biological grandparent is able to seek visitation rights with a child who is adopted by a stepparent or another relative of the child. If this visitation is granted, it will allow the grandparents to spend time with the grandchild, who will abide by the times and locations set forth by the court. The court may also specify permissions for in-person visits and communication via phone, texts, social media, email, greeting cards, letters, and other forms of communication.

To obtain visitation rights, grandparents must demonstrate a longstanding relationship with the child and illustrate how visitation would serve the child’s best interests. The following factors are a few considered:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s physical, emotional, and social growth and well-being
  • Length and strength of the child’s relationship with the grandparents
  • Schedules of the child and the grandparents
  • Distance between households

What are Grandparents’ Rights Regarding Adopted Grandchildren?

Grandparents are not allowed any visitation rights when a child is taken away from unfit parents or given up for adoption. According to North Carolina law, there are no circumstances where a biological grandparent of a child adopted by adoptive parents who are not related to the child and where biological parental rights have been severed may be entitled to visitation. When biological parental rights are terminated during an adoption, grandparent ties and rights are also terminated.

When Can Visitation or Custody be Requested?

Grandparents have the right to intervene and seek visitation while a custody case is ongoing. Once the parents have reached an agreement on custody, or once the court decides on custody, grandparents typically are no longer able to seek visitation.

It is much more difficult for a grandparent to seek custody than it is to seek visitation. If there is not an active open case, a grandparent’s only option may be to seek custody. However, in order to file a legitimate lawsuit, the grandparents must show that the parents have severely neglected or abandoned the child, as previously stated. A basic rule is that if the parents have not acted in a manner that justifies the removal of the child by the Department of Social Services, then a judge will not remand custody to the grandparents.

Do I Need an Attorney?

When grandparents request custody or visitation, it usually occurs during existing legal battles with or between parents. For this reason, you need reliable legal representation. Call Kreider Attorneys at Law today at 336-550-1210 or fill out a contact form for a consultation.