How to Get Custody of a Grandchild When Their Parent Uses Drugs

Written by Jonathan Breeden

November 15, 2023

Drug addiction can wreak havoc on the family unit and create a chaotic upbringing for children. Approximately 1 in 8 children live with at least one parent with a substance use disorder, which often results in the parent losing custody rights. In fact, 38.9% of kids removed from the home in 2019 were a result of parents using drugs.

Without close relatives, these children face a bleak future and could be forced to enter the foster care system. If you’re a grandparent, you may be their only chance at a stable life while their parent recovers from addiction.

Here’s more on your rights as a grandparent and how to get custody of your grandchild in North Carolina when their parent uses drugs.

Grandparent Rights in North Carolina

North Carolina law does not explicitly state a grandparent’s right to have custody of their grandchildren. Instead, their custody laws detail a grandparent’s visitation rights, which involve court-ordered rights to see and communicate with their grandchild.

Grandparents may obtain visitation rights during custody disputes, divorce, and other issues involving the child’s parents that could put on strain on them emotionally. Visitation doesn’t always involve in person visits. It gives them the right to communicate with their grandchildren electronically through phone calls, text, or FaceTime calls.

While North Carolina only includes details for grandparents obtaining visitation rights, they can still pursue custody if they wish. G.S. § 50-13.2 states that any person, agency, organization, or institution could be awarded custody as long as it promotes the interest and welfare of the child. So, if you prove that the child’s parent’s drug addiction has compromised the health and safety of the child, you could be awarded custody as their biological grandparent.  The grandparent must show that the parents are unfit and acting contrary to their parental rights as parents.

How to Obtain Custody of Your Grandchild

Pursuing custody of your grandchild is similar to any other custody case, and you should follow these steps:

  • Complete the Necessary Paperwork – Your first step is to complete a Complaint for Custody and/or Visitation. This document must be signed in front of a notary public to ensure its validity. Other documents you may need to complete include Civil Summons, Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, Custody Mediation Cover Sheet, and Service Members Civil Relief Act Affidavit.
  • File Your Documents with the Court – Once you’ve completed your paperwork, you must file the original and two copies of your initial complaint and other necessary documents
  • Serve Your Grandchild’s Parent – North Carolina states that it’s your responsibility to serve the child’s parent or guardian. The law requires you to serve your documents in a specific way to ensure your case is heard. You could either mail the documents or pay the Sheriff $30 to serve the defendant.
  • Attend Court – You should attend all court hearings with your attorney. They will present your case before the judge and provide evidence arguing why it’s in your grandchild’s best interest to live with you indefinitely.

Can Your Grandchild’s Parent Regain Custody?

Keep in mind that custody orders are not permanent. If your grandchild’s parent attends rehab and secures a stable job, they could file a motion to modify the custody order due to a change in circumstances. However, to do this, the child’s parent must go through the custody process again where they will present their case before a judge.

Obtain Custody Rights – Call Today

Children deserve to live in a safe environment free from abuse and neglect. Drug addiction could kid’s emotionally damaged, resulting in them acting out later in life. Studies show that children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction themselves. To avoid the continuous cycle of addiction, you must take action to obtain custody rights of your grandchild.

You need a family law attorney by your side to navigate the complex custody process and gather evidence to sway the judge’s decision in your favor. Contact Breeden Law Office today so we can work on your case and fighting your custody rights.


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