Under North Carolina law, a grandparent’s ability to visit their grandchildren is typically at the discretion of the parents. If a parent denies grandparent visitation, a grandparent can only gain visitation rights by filing a parallel motion to get child custody—and proving that the parents are to unsuitable fulfill their parental duties. However, if the parents are deemed fit but refuse—for whatever reason—to allow the grandparents to have a relationship with their grandchildren, the grandparents have no legal recourse.
However, if House Bill 505 becomes law, grandparents could receive greater legal freedoms surrounding grandchildren visitation. Under this bill, grandparents would have the ability to file a court action for visitation rights without the requirement of a concurrent child custody action. In such situations, the grandparents would need to demonstrate to the court that the following three conditions are true:
In evaluating whether grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest, the court would ask:
In addition to the above, the court may consider any other factors it deems relevant to the child’s best interest.
If House Bill 505 passes, it could create increased opportunities for grandparents in North Carolina to develop relationships with their grandchildren—even if they are estranged from their children.