Grandparent Rights

As soon as grandparents learn that their child is facing a divorce, their main concern is whether they can visit their grandchildren after the divorce. While there’s no formal recognition of the rights of grandparents in North Carolina, we, at McIlveen Family Law Firm, can help grandparents obtain a connection to their grandchildren whose parents are divorced, or rescue grandchildren from any dangerous situation.

Do grandparents have visitation rights to see their grandchildren?

Maybe​. However, timing is very critical in determining visitation-related issues for grandparents. If you wait just a little too long before making your move, your right to even make a claim for visitation could be lost.

The state of North Carolina has four statutes that allow a grandparent to maintain an action for custody of a grandchild:

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.1(a)) — “Any parent, relative, or other person, agency, organization or institution claiming the right to custody of a minor child may institute an action or proceeding for the custody of such child, as hereinafter provided.”

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.2(b1)) — “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. As used in this subsection, “grandparent” includes a biological grandparent of a child adopted by a stepparent or a relative of the child where a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child….”

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.2A) — “A biological grandparent may institute an action or proceeding for visitation rights with a child adopted by a stepparent or a relative of the child where a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child. Under no circumstances shall a biological grandparent of a child adopted by adoptive parents, neither of whom is related to the child and where parental rights of both biological parents have been terminated, be entitled to visitation rights. A court may award visitation rights if it determines that visitation is in the best interest of the child…”

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.5(j)) — “In any action in which the custody of a minor child has been determined, upon a motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances pursuant to G.S. 50-13.7, the grandparents of the child are entitled to such custody or visitation rights as the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate. As used in this subsection, “grandparent” includes a biological grandparent of a child adopted by a stepparent or a relative of the child where a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child. Under no circumstances shall a biological grandparent of a child adopted by adoptive parents, neither of whom is related to the child and where parental rights of both biological parents have been terminated, be entitled to visitation rights.”

When it comes to issues of grandparents’ rights, the courts of North Carolina have clearly distinguished custody from visitation. The basic law states that grandparents only have a right to intervene and seek visitation while the custody case is ongoing. Once parents have already reached an agreement on custody, or when the court has already decided the custody, grandparents generally can no longer seek visitation.

If you’re a grandparent with only the best interests of your grandchildren in mind, it’s very important to contact us early so you can have an informed decision on what to do next in order to maintain your close relationship with your grandchildren even after their parents’ divorce.