Grandparents often play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. North Carolina law recognizes this, and permits them to seek visitation with their grandchildren, even when one or both of the parents object. However, certain criteria must be met before the court will allow them to intervene.

When there is an ongoing custody case, grandparents may seek to intervene in the case to be granted visitation rights. (This usually takes the form of the grandparents, through their attorney, filing a motion with the court.) Sometimes, this is done as a result of the fact the grandparent does not feel they are seeing enough of the grandchild; however, sometimes, grandparents do it even if they are satisfied with the amount they see their grandchildren, in order to preserve their rights in case the parents later die or there is a falling-out that limits their access to the grandchildren. This is necessary because a grandparent does not have standing to sue in North Carolina upon the death of their child.

If a grandparent decides to file an action to obtain expanded visitation, they should know that the procedure for doing so is complex. If a motion or complaint is filed that does not allege all the essential elements in order to achieve visitation, it may be dismissed by the court.

Grandparents may seek custody of grandchildren in unfortunate situations where the parents are not acting well in their capacity of parents. If grandparents wish to seek custody of their grandchildren, they must first demonstrate to the court that both parents are unfit. It is not enough to show that the child would simply be better off with the grandparent; rather, they must show that the parents have acted in such a way their constitutionally protected status as parents should be terminated. This is a very difficult burden to meet: parents are presumed to be fit custodians. Examples of situations that might render parents unfit would be alcoholism, child abuse, neglect, or abandoning the child.

Grandparents’ rights are an emerging issue of law, and one that is very complex. Attorney Jonathan Meek has handled grandparents’ rights cases and is knowledgeable in this area. Contact him for a consultation today.

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