When a divorce gets contentious, one of the common aspects is that the relationship between the divorcing spouses and their in-laws is severed. Sometimes, when children are involved, your son’s or daughter’s spouse is no longer willing to allow you access to your grandchildren. Most likely, this will leave you more than a little bit upset, especially if you often have been your grandchild’s caregiver. You may even wonder if you should sue for visitation with your grandchildren, or if that’s even possible in North Carolina.
Grandparent visitation rights
Visitation rights for grandparents vary by state. Thus, where the divorce is filed makes a difference. For example, in North Carolina, grandparents may gain visitation rights as part of a child custody order. Yet the court doesn’t spell out when exactly these visitation rights may be granted, other than if a grandchild is adopted by a stepparent or another relative. Often, courts evaluate the best interests of a child when deciding if grandparents should receive visitation rights. However, what is included in a child’s best interests is not defined by North Carolina courts.
In South Carolina, grandparents also may gain visitation rights if the parents divorce or one parent is deceased. Yet, the court must consider the relationship between the grandparent(s) and the child, as well as between the parent(s) and child before awarding grandparent visitation.
Visitation vs. custody rights
Grandparents also may seek custody rights in North Carolina. These are only granted when the child’s parents are deceased, or they are proved to be unfit. This includes if a child has been abused, abandoned or the parents’ drug use or mental illness prevents them from being good parents.
A child’s parents also can voluntarily give custody to the child’s grandparents.
When it comes to child custody, you may receive only temporary custody. When a parent or both can show they are ready to care for their children on their own again, the courts often want to reestablish parental custody. Only if the grandchildren are adopted by their grandparents does that approach change.
If you feel you have a strong case for grandparent visitation or custody, consult a family law attorney. An attorney can ensure you’ve completed the correct legal process that will grant you those rights so you can keep your relationship with your grandchildren strong.