Grandparents Rights in North Carolina

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Being a grandparent can bring unparalleled joy to your life. Therefore, when your ability to spend time with your grandchild is threatened, you may want to educate yourself on your legal rights. In addition, grandparents in North Carolina are increasingly seeking custody of their grandchildren if the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to provide for their grandchild child.

While North Carolina does not formally recognize grandparent rights, the courts do allow grandparents to pursue custody if their grandchild’s family situation warrants it.

Grandparents have some options, but you need to work with an experienced North Carolina child custody attorney. With over 20 years experience and offices in Raleigh, Garner, Angier, and Smithfield, attorney Jonathan Breeden can help.

What are a family’s rights for child custody in North Carolina?

Custody Rights of Grandparents

It’s not impossible for grandparents to seek custody of their grandchildren. North Carolina’s statutes simply say that any “person, agency, organization or institution” may pursue adoption of a minor child.

The court will ascertain who may be the best candidate based on the best interests of the child. In doing so, the court reviews facts and information presented by the potential adoptive parent or parents, with great focus on factors that point to the safety and security of both the child and their adoptive parents.

When parents are unable to care for their children, the state often looks to relatives to find potential homes. In such a situation, it is good to know your custody rights as a grandparent. You may be interested in temporarily stepping in to help your grandchildren, or a more permanent solution may be necessary. A skilled North Carolina child custody attorney can help you weigh your options and do what is best for your entire family.

When Can Grandparents Get Custody

For grandparents to win a custody action, they must show that the child’s parents are unfit, or that they have acted in a way that is contrary to their constitutional rights as parents.

Even if one parent is deemed unfit, the child’s parental family will be considered fit if the other parent is suitable in the eyes of the court. Therefore, to win custody of your grandchild, your lawyer must demonstrate that both of the child’s parents are unable to take care of the child.

Factors that can deem a parent unfit are:

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

A child is not considered abandoned if the parents maintain contact and return when they are able to properly care for them.

Grandparents of Adopted Children

Biological grandparents in North Carolina do not have visitation rights if their grandchild was adopted by non-biological parents. Since both of the child’s biological parents terminated their custodial rights, the grandparents also have no rights.

Can Grandparents Modify a Custody Order?

Sometimes, the dynamics in a child’s home or school may shift. In these situations, the court may be willing to consider modifying a previous custody order, as long as the proper evidence is presented.

If your grandchild has experienced a change in their circumstances that you feel warrants an adjustment to their custody arrangement, you can request the court’s help. A North Carolina child custody attorney can help you gather evidence and present it to the court that shows what is in the child’s best interests.

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights to Their Grandchildren?

Visitation Rights of Grandparents

North Carolina has consistently upheld the wishes of an intact family over the wants of grandparents regarding visitation rights. In other words, the grandparents can be denied visitation rights if the child’s competent parents choose to do so.

A grandparent can still request visitation in North Carolina, but your lawyer will likely have to show that the child’s parents are not able or properly fit to deny your visitation rights. In addition, your grandchild would clearly benefit from your presence/involvement in their life.

Having a visitation schedule drafted by the court ensures the grandparents can continue being a part of the child’s life no matter what.

How Grandparents Request Visitation

Grandparents are not automatically granted visitation rights. They must petition the court for visitation during the custody hearing, and the court will review their request to assure visitation will promote the well-being of the child. Visitation is not just limited to biological children.

Grandparents may also initiate a proceeding for visitation rights of their adoptive grandchildren. In this case, the grandparents will need to provide proof to the court that a “substantial relationship” exists between them and their adoptive grandchild.

There are exceptions to the rule. For example, in cases where a grandchild has been adopted by nonbiological parents, and the child’s biological parents’ rights have been terminated, grandparents will not be permitted to have visitation rights. This exclusion extends to grandparents of biological grandchildren and adoptive grandchildren.

How A Child Custody Lawyer Can Help

The state of North Carolina has a strong interest in protecting the rights of parents to keep custody of their children. But sometimes parents are unwilling or unable to provide safe environments for their children. In these cases, the grandparents often step up and provide for their grandchildren.

As a grandparent, you do have certain rights. In the event that your grandchild’s parents have either lost or extinguished their parental rights, you may want to call a child custody lawyer who will help you fight to maintain a relationship with your grandchild.

Contact Breeden Law Office

With over 19 years of experience in family law, attorney Jonathan Breeden understands the importance of keeping a family together. Call (919) 205-5254 today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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