Parents generally have the right to decide how to raise their children. Determining who is allowed to spend time with your children is included in this right. However, the North Carolina General Assembly has purposefully enacted statutes which allow a grandparent to seek custody or visitation in certain circumstances.
The threshold question a grandparent faces in seeking visitation is whether or not they have the right to bring a claim before the court. In general, this right is referred to as 'standing'. Without standing, the court will not even begin to hear a grandparent’s claim for visitation. The good news is that the legislature has specifically provided grandparents standing to seek visitation in limited situations.
Under these statutes, timing is crucial. The burden a grandparent has to establish standing depends on whether there is an ongoing custody dispute or if the permanent custody of the children is already decided. Typically, when there is an ongoing custody action a grandparent has standing. This is not limited to custody actions between parents, but may also include actions by the Department of Social Services or other agencies against a parent. If there is not ongoing custody action, a grandparent has a higher burden to gain standing. In this situation, a grandparent must show a substantial change of circumstances affects the welfare of the child. In either situation, establishing standing only permits a grandparent the right to seek visitation. A grandparent must then show that granting visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child.
If you are a grandparent and have questions regarding visitation rights with your grandchild, contact Hatcher Law Group to schedule a consultation. Ryan Van Horn is a family law attorney at Hatcher Law Group. He assists clients in cases involving child custody, child support, divorce, equitable distribution, alimony and domestic violence.