Do I Have Visitation Rights as a Grandparent in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can I do to gain custody of my child in North Carolina?”


There is a special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. Their relationship is based on love and appreciation. For this reason, many grandparents wonder, “Do I have any visitation rights as a grandparent in North Carolina?

grandfather-and-grandson-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Family-Lawyer-300x225A grandparent may find it difficult – and, often, impossible – to spend time with their grandkids when the grandchildren’s parents separate, divorce, or die.

Fortunately, grandparents can petition the court to seek custody or visitation rights in those situations. Consult with our family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discuss grandparents’ rights in the event of separation, divorce, or death of one or both parents.


Can a Grandparent Seek Custody Rights in North Carolina?

In limited circumstances, grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren instead of obtaining visitation rights. If a grandparent is granted custody rights, the grandparent can live with the grandchild and make decisions regarding the child’s life.

However, obtaining custody rights as a grandparent is difficult. North Carolina courts may only approve a grandparent’s petition for custody when:

  • Both parents were deemed unfit;
  • Both parents are deceased;
  • The parents have abandoned their children;
  • There is documented evidence of child abuse or neglect in the parents’ home;
  • There is documented evidence of alcohol or drug abuse in the parents’ home;
  • Parents were diagnosed with a mental illness; or
  • Both parents consent to give custody to the grandparent(s).

In any of these circumstances, a grandparent may be granted child custody rights. However, when seeking custody of their grandchildren, grandparents must overcome the presumption that parental care is in the child’s best interests.


Can Grandparents Seek Visitation Rights?

In cases in which it is not possible to obtain custody rights, grandparents can petition the court to be awarded visitation rights. After getting visitation rights, grandparents can spend time with grandchildren in person and through electronic communications, including video chats and texting.

Under N.C.G.S. § 50-13.1, grandparents can request visitation rights when a child custody action is pending. To be considered, a grandparent’s petition to obtain visitation rights should be filed before the judge issues a final order.

To obtain visitation rights, a grandparent must demonstrate evidence of “a substantial relationship” between the grandparent and grandchild. However, under North Carolina law, a child’s biological grandparents cannot seek visitation rights if:

  • The child was adopted by parents not related to the child by blood; and
  • The adopted child’s biological parents had their parental rights terminated.

It means that if your biological grandchild was adopted and the child’s parents had their parental rights terminated, you cannot request visitation rights in North Carolina.

When reviewing a grandparent’s petition seeking visitation rights, a North Carolina court will award visitation rights or deny the petition based on what is in the child’s best interests. When determining whether a grandparent’s visitation rights would be in the best interests of the grandchild, the family law judge will evaluate the following factors:

  • The relationship between the grandchild and the grandparent;
  • The grandchild’s physical health;
  • The grandchild’s emotional health; and
  • The grandchild’s wellbeing.

If you are a grandparent who wants to obtain custody or visitation rights in North Carolina, speak with our family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Let’s discuss your options during a phone consultation. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.





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