Family Law: Rights of a Grandparent

I am a grandparent.  I have just learned that my married, adult child is getting a divorce.  My grandchildren are my world!!  Will my child’s divorce mean I will not get to see my grandchildren as much as I have in the past?  Will I get to visit them if my adult child does not get custody?  Do I have any rights in all this?

The right of a grandparent to have visitation with their grandchildren following a divorce has become a highly-debated topic in our society.  In so many families today, grandparents are increasingly everyday caretakers to their grandchildren and often live under the same roof as their grandchildren.   Even though these living and care arrangements can be beneficial for children, parents, and grandparents, many grandparents find themselves all but forgotten when child custody and visitation arrangements are being determined by the court.

As soon as grandparents learn that their adult child is facing a divorce, one of their main concerns is whether they can visit with their grandchildren after the divorce.  While there is no formal recognition of grandparent rights in North Carolina, there are ways grandparents can seek to maintain a connection to their grandchildren whose parents are divorcing.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER WHEN SEEKING GRANDPARENT VISITATION

  1. In North Carolina, grandparents have no standing or rights to seek visitation when children are living in an intact family where there are no issues of separation or divorce.
  1. The law which addresses grandparent visitation in North Carolina is NC General Statute § 50-13.2 (b1) which states, “An order for custody of a minor child may provide visitation rights for any grandparent of the child, as the court in its discretion, deems appropriate.”
  1. In North Carolina, timing is everything for a grandparent wishing to ensure visitation with their grandchildren. If you wait just a little too long before making your move, your right to make a claim for visitation with your grandchild could be lost.
  1. The early bird gets the worm. Early action is very important.   A grandparent wanting to ensure they receive visitation with their grandchild during divorce proceedings between the child’s parents, will to a certain extent, become part of the divorce proceedings.  A grandparent who is concerned they might be shut out of their grandchild’s life will need to file their own petition for visitation with the court, while the custody case is ongoing between the grandchild’s parents.  Once the parents have already reached an agreement on custody, or when the court has already decided the custody, grandparents generally cannot seek visitation through the court system.
  1. If the grandparent files a petition for visitation, the Court will decide if grandparent visitation is appropriate by making a determination in the “best interests” of the child. The best interest of a child is determined on a case by case basis.  No two petitions for visitation are ever the same and the court may consider many different factors to determine what is in a child’s best interest.
  1. Factors to be considered by the court for grandparent visitation may include, but are certainly not limited to, the length of the relationship between the child and the grandparent, the relationship between the child’s parent and the grandparent requesting visitation, and in some cases, if the child is old enough, the court may take the child’s preferences into account.

Blog by: Andrea Anders; Practice Areas: personal injury, family law

If you are a grandparent wishing to a make a petition or motion for visitation during divorce proceedings, I would be glad to speak with you about the process.

DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG POST WAS PREPARED BY KLUTTZ, REAMER, HAYES, ADKINS AND CARTER AND IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT, IN ANY WAY, CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE.

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