Grandparents play an important role in many extended family units. They can help provide low-cost or emergency childcare support for their children, which gives them time with their grandchildren. They can provide financial resources for parents still struggling to establish themselves professionally and emotional support for children as they develop.
Unfortunately, sometimes issues in the relationships that grandparents have with parents will affect their bond with their grandchildren. Some states, including North Carolina, have rules on the books addressing situations like grandparent requests for visitation.
What are the two most common scenarios in which grandparents can request visitation in the North Carolina family courts?
When someone adopts their grandchild
Sometimes, parents lose parental rights because of criminal prosecution or a state investigation into abuse or neglect claims. They may voluntarily give up those rights when facing criminal charges or when there is someone better capable of providing for a child’s needs who is willing to adopt them.
If the adoptive or foster parents do not cooperate with the grandparents for visitation, North Carolina statutes allow the grandparents to initiate proceedings and requested visitation access. So long as the courts agree that seeing the grandparents would be in the children’s best interests, the grandparents can seek court-ordered permission to see their grandchildren.
In the context of pre-existing custody matters
Grandparents typically can’t initiate visitation litigation when their grandchildren are still in the custody of their biological or legal parents, but they can become involved in an existing dispute to protect their rights.
If the parents of a child are embroiled in a custody battle and a grandparent worries that they may lose access because their child won’t have parenting time, they can request visitation during those proceedings as well. They can file paperwork with the courts and provide testimony or other evidence to support their claim to court-ordered visitation rights as the parents settle their custody matters in court.
In any situation where a grandparent wants access to a grandchild through a court order, they will need to demonstrate having a pre-existing relationship and show that developing that bond will benefit the children. Knowing your rights as a grandparent worried about losing access to your grandchildren can help you preserve those precious relationships.