In North Carolina, it can be difficult for grandparents to see their grandchildren after major family conflicts. As we’ve discussed in the past, both parents need to be unfit for grandparents to gain custody of their children, but simply retaining visitation rights isn’t easy either.

However, a recent change by the state’s courts gives grandparents a chance to keep their court-ordered visitation even when their child’s parental rights are terminated. This primarily involves when the grandparent chooses to involve themselves in the case, so it is important to know when the best time to intervene is.

New court orders

Recently, a father in North Carolina filed for full custody of his child after the mother suffered from alleged mental illness and substance abuse. During the initial two court orders, the grandmother (who was the woman’s mother) intervened by filing for visitation rights with her grandchild. The court determined that the father would retain permanent custody while the grandmother still retained her visitation rights.

A few years later, the father would file for termination of the mother’s parental rights. The grandmother filed for a motion for contempt shortly afterward, but the court initially decided that her visitation rights were terminated alongside the mother’s. She then successfully filed for an appeal.

The court of appeals clarified that while grandparents that try to intervene after a major custody dispute or death of one of the parents will not have a standing, those who become parties to a custody case can modify visitation rights. Since the grandmother was involved in the custody dispute in the earlier stages, she can still acquire visitation rights even if her daughter can’t.

Acting quickly

Even if these new regulations offer some flexibility in grandparental visitation rights, North Carolina still has plenty of restrictions to deal with. Grandparents can’t afford to wait if their child gets into a major custody dispute with their ex.

If you need help understanding how filing for visitation rights works in North Carolina or require quick assistance for an ongoing dispute case, contact a family law attorney to see what your best course of action is.