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Can grandparents seek visitation rights?

As a grandparent, your grandchildren are some of the most important people in your life. There is very little you would not do for them. Unfortunately, life can get incredibly complicated.

Perhaps your son or daughter is getting a divorce, or maybe your unmarried child is in a custody dispute with your grandchild’s other parent. In North Carolina, you do have the legal right to apply for visitation of your grandchildren, in some circumstances.

A grandparent can only apply for visitation if the child’s family is no longer intact. Further, you must apply for visitation during a custody action. You can apply for visitation if…

  • Parents are getting divorced or legally separated.
  • A stepparent or another relative has applied for adoption.
  • Unmarried parents are fighting over custody.

A single parent household is considered an intact family, unless there is a custody fight.

To prove your case for visitation, you must first demonstrate the family is not intact. You must also show visitation would be in the child’s best interests. Typically, the court determines it is in the child’s best interests if you have a substantial relationship with your grandchild. A substantial relationship may mean:

  • The child stays overnight or goes on vacation with you.
  • Your grandchild visits your home frequently.
  • You provide clothing, medical care or other necessities to the child.
  • You watch your grandchild while his or her parents are at work.
  • You regularly attend sporting events or other extracurricular activities your grandchild participates in.

To begin the process, you can file a petition in the district court where your grandchild lives. The burden of proof will be on you, so you may want to reach out to a family law attorney to represent you in the courtroom.

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