Written by Jonathan Breeden
Grandparents in North Carolina are increasingly pursuing 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. North Carolina previously considered an expansion of grandparents’ rights with House Bill 505. This legislation would have allowed grandparents to pursue visitation rights with children in certain circumstances. But despite its good intentions, HB505 went nowhere and no one has introduced anything similar in years.
Grandparents still have some options, but you need to work with an experienced North Carolina child custody attorney.
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:
A child is not considered abandoned if the parents maintain contact and return when they are able to properly care for them.
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.
House Bill 505 would have provided more options for grandparents seeking visitation right had it passed.
Instead, 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.
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.
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.
If you would like to pursue legal action to get custody or visitation with your grandchild, you will need a skilled lawyer with extensive experience in North Carolina family law. It is important to know your rights as a grandparent, as these rights often change.