Grandparents’ Rights in North Carolina

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What rules are there for Father’s Right in NC?”


In the midst of a divorce, the focus is on which parent will be awarded custody of the children. What most people do not know, though, is that there are other options in a custody battle beyond the biological parents. In North Carolina, there are various statutes that can award a grandparent custody or visitation. Grandparents play a special role in a child’s life. While there may be options for grandparents to seek custody and visitation, it is by no means a guarantee that the grandparent will receive the custody or visitation. Instead, the statutes are merely a means to get into the court system to ask for visitation. The statutes do not entitle a grandparent to court ordered custody or visitation.


grandparents-rights-Charlotte-Mooresville-Monroe-Child-Custody-Lawyer-300x201There are four statutes that give a grandparent the right to petition or ask for custody or visitation of a child. Each statute comes from North Carolina General Statutes §50-13.


  • Subsection 13.1(a) states that any “parent, relative, or other person, agency organization or institution” that is claiming the right to custody of a minor child, they are permitted to under the below stipulations. In this statutes, grandparents are included with the term “relative.”
  • Subsection 13.2(b1) states that “an order for custody of a minor child may provide visitation rights for any grandparent of the child as the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate.”
  • Subsection 13.2A specifically names biological grandparents as being able to institute an action for visitation rights. When the minor child is adopted by a step parent or other relative, grandparents can bring an action for visitation if “a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child.” The court looks at the best interests of the child in determining whether or not there is a valid situation for visitation to be awarded.
  • Subsection 13.5(j) grandparents can bring an action “upon a motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances” to give a grandparent custody or visitation rights. Again, the court has discretion to award custody and will look at the best interest of the child.


It is important to note that the North Carolina statutes specifically exclude biological grandparents of a minor child who has been adopted. Grandparents of an adopted child are not able to seek custody of that child after the child has been adopted by someone other than a relative.


The above mentioned statutes might seem like they all say the same thing, or there is no way to distinguish between them. However, each statute is unique and can only be used in certain circumstances. Depending on the goals of the grandparents seeking custody or visitation, one statute might be more beneficial than another. One statute might make a court more favorable to visitation, or custody, both, or even neither. The strategic use of the North Carolina statutes can make the difference between custody or visitation being awarded or denied.


The family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help you. We know custody and visitation battles can be overwhelming, especially for grandparents. We want to help you receive custody or visitation of your beloved grandchildren. Contact us today for a consultation. If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter and need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 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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