Can a grandparent take custody of a grandchild in North Carolina?

In the state of North Carolina, the court has an interest in allowing parents to maintain custody of their children whenever possible. However, if parents are unable–or unwilling–to provide a safe, nurturing environment for a child, the court may consider other options.

In such situations, a grandparent–or grandparents–may petition the court to obtain legal custody of their grandchildren. In this post, we examine the basic requirements of this process.

Under North Carolina General Statute, in order to gain custody of your grandchild, you–or your lawyer–must be able to demonstrate to the court that the child’s parents are unfit to fulfill their parental duties. For example, an unfit parent may:

  • Have neglected their child in some way
  • Have abandoned their child
  • Have abused their child
  • Have abused drugs
  • Have voluntarily given up custody of their child
  • Be unable to financially care for their child
  • Have mental instability
  • Provide a dangerous environment for the child

Note that it is necessary to prove that both parents are unfit. If the court deems one parent to be fit, they can maintain custody.

There are certain other circumstances under which a grandparent may be able to intervene to gain custody of a grandchild–such as if a parent dies or during a custody dispute between the grandchild’s biological parents.

Initiating an action for child custody can be a complicated process for a grandparent to undertake. To better understand your options, it is worthwhile to consult with an attorney who has a deep understanding of the applicable family law statutes.

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