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Grandparent Rights in North Carolina

By Jennifer J. Bell

Only the very best parents get promoted to Grandparents! Becoming a Grandparent is every parent’s dream, and most often a monumental time during one’s life. The Golden Age is aptly named for that time during which an individual becomes a Grandparent. Being a Grandparent means baby snuggles, toddler kisses, and adolescent adoration, all without the fuss of raising the child. All of the benefit and little to none of the burden. What could be better?! But what happens when family strife hits? Do Grandparents have any rights? Especially when it comes to their grand-babies? The answer is no, yes, and maybe.

Unfortunately, Grandparents do not have a right to see or visit with their grandchildren when the family unit is intact. Under North Carolina case law, parents have the right to choose whom their children interact with, which is also the right of association guaranteed under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Grandparents cannot force the parents to allow them to see or spend time with their grandchildren when the children are part of a cohesive family lifestyle. Many Grandparents call it their “right” to see their grand-babies, but as sad as it is this “right” rarely exists.

However, if mom or dad is ‘unfit’ to raise the child, Grandma or Grandpa may petition or sue for custody of the minor child. Although the burden for ‘unfitness’ is a tough one to meet Grandparent’s most definitely have a right to sue for custody when it is met.

But what if both parents are fit, wonderful, loving parents? Then the situation becomes a bit more sticky. Grandparents may have a right to sue or petition for visitation of their grandchildren when an intact family unit becomes divided, for lack of a better word. There are certain hurdles a Grandparent would have to overcome in order to gain visitation rights. Examples include: their strong connection with the grandchild, frequency of visits before familial strife, and how their visits would promote the well-being of the child. It is important to note that in this instance, there must be an on-going custody case between the parents in order to seek visitation.

In summation, Grandparent s do have rights, albeit few, which depend upon the familial situation between the parent and child. If you have any questions about Grandparent’s rights give our office a call today to set up a consultation!

Jennifer J. Bell is an associate attorney at Amy Edwards Family Law. She is licensed only in NC. Laws change. This article is current as of 2017. www.AmyEdwardsFamilyLaw.com (c)2017

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