Grandparents may struggle to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren if the parents divorce. In other cases, one or both parents may prevent a relationship with the grandparents.
North Carolina grandparents in a situation like this may have grounds to seek visitation in court. In the presence of extenuating circumstances, grandparents may even wish to seek custody of grandchildren.
North Carolina permits legal visitation for grandparents only when the child’s parents are divorced, have separated, or are not married and are currently involved in a custody dispute.
Grandparents can also request visitation when another relative, such as a stepparent, has adopted their grandchild. In this case, however, they must prove that they already have a close relationship with the child. This standard applies when another family adopts the child as well.
Regardless of the reason for requesting visitation, grandparents must prove that the ongoing relationship will have a positive effect on the child’s well-being.
Grandparents can seek custody only when the parents have a history of neglect, violence or abuse, or cannot provide a healthy, safe living environment for the child. In other circumstances, grandparents can request visitation as well as phone and electronic contact.
To start the process, grandparents can file a petition in the district court where their grandchildren live. They can do so either when a custody arrangement exists or when the parents are in the process of determining custody. The court will hold a hearing to determine whether visitation with the grandparents serves the best interests of their grandchildren.