Visitation Rights for Grandparents in North Carolina

about parenting

Relationships between children and their grandparents are important, and that bond can be loving and wonderful. Yet, misunderstandings, divorce, separations, the death of a parent, and other circumstances can result in a grandparent needing to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren. In North Carolina, there are some provisions to consider, when it is time to legally petition the court. An established divorce lawyer in Greensboro, NC can assist with this particular area of family law. At The Law Office of Julia M. Pendleton, we provide compassionate service and quality representation for all members of the family, including legal visitation rights of grandparents. Your short and long-term goals are essential to helping us obtain a fair and reasonable outcome for your family. An article in About Parenting describes the two provisions in the state of North Carolina that could become hurdles in the legal process, including the custody suit and understanding the law about an intact family:

"Two provisions make visitation difficult for grandparents to obtain in North Carolina. First, a suit may be entered only in connection with a custody suit, not in an independent action. Second, North Carolina's definition of an intact family is broader than the usual definition.

Because grandparents in North Carolina cannot file an independent action for visitation, some grandparents seek visitation rights as a part of a grandchild's custody case even if they are not being denied contact. They consider it insurance for the future. Doing so is even more advisable considering the state's definition of an intact family. Under North Carolina law, single-parent homes can be considered intact. In most other states, intact families are those in which the parents are married or living together. The status of an intact family gives extra protection from suits. For example, if Johnny's parents are divorced and his grandparents see him when he visits his father, if his father dies, the grandparents could be cut off with no legal recourse, because the surviving parent is considered an intact family.
If something changes in a family's circumstances, necessitating that the custody issue be reopened, a grandparent can enter a plea for visitation rights at that time."

Since single-parent homes can be considered intact in North Carolina, they may have the same protection that married parents have in other states. A custody suit must also occur instead of an independent action for grandparents' visitation rights. Our Greensboro family law firm will assist you through the court process and help get to a resolution that is reasonable for your family. There are other provisions to acknowledge if you are a long-distance grandparent or grandparent of an adopted child:

"North Carolina is one of the few states to provide for virtual visitation . Such visitation is suggested as a supplement to, not a replacement for face-to-face time, but it could be a boon to a long-distance grandparent.

Visitation can be granted after adoption if the adopting party is a stepparent or relative and if "substantial relationship" exists between grandparent and grandchild."

As a family law attorney in Greensboro, NC, we will help you as you go through this emotional process, making you aware of all available options and communicating your needs during negotiations and mediations. For more information, please contact our office at 336-355-8796.

(Source: North Carolina Grandparents' Rights: Two Unusual Provisions Make Winning Visitation Difficult,www.grandparents.about.com, 2014)