At Zach Jackson Law, we are frequently asked about grandparents’ rights in North Carolina. Pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. This means that under most circumstances, parents have the right to prevent individuals from visiting with their children. However, the courts have recognized that grandparents and other individuals often assume responsibilities of a parental nature. It is important to protect the children who will inevitably form a close bond with these individuals. Therefore, under certain circumstances, grandparents and other individuals may obtain court ordered visitation or custody with a minor child.
If the minor child is living in an intact family and if there are no allegations that a parent is unfit, neglectful, or guilty of some other misconduct, the courts cannot award visitation or custody to a third party. In North Carolina, if the parents of the minor child have a pending action in regards to custody of the minor child, this action triggers the grandparents’ rights. The grandparents may intervene in this action and request court ordered visitation. If the courts enter a permanent custody order, the grandparents will not have the opportunity to petition the courts for visitation again unless there is a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Therefore, if your child has an ongoing custody or visitation dispute over your grandchild, it is important to immediately consult with a family law attorney to determine if you should take legal action to protect your relationship with your grandchild.
Grandparent and Third Party Custody
North Carolina allows a person or organization to file an independent action for custody of a child if it is alleged that the parent is unfit, has died, or has engaged in conduct inconsistent with the parent’s parental status. Behaviors that could result in a court concluding that a parent is unfit include child abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, mental illness, and criminal conduct. The court may find that the parents have engaged in conduct inconsistent with their parental status if they have relied on a grandparent or third party to be the primary caregiver for the child.
At Zach Jackson Law, we are experienced in and passionate about protecting grandparent rights. If you or someone you know is seeking visitation or custody, please contact our office for a consultation.