When a parent is unfit or has acted in a manner that is inconsistent with his or her paramount parental right to custody, a grandparent who has a parent-child type relationship with a grandchild may bring a suit for custody of a grandchild.
There are four different North Carolina laws that empower grandparents to request visitation rights in different circumstances.
The most general of these laws allows grandparents to sue just like any other third party for custody; however, this law has been limited by North Carolina appellate cases;
A second law provides that an order for custody of a minor child may provide visitation for any grandparent of the child as the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate. "Grandparent" includes a biological grandparent of a child adopted by a stepparent or relative of the child where a substantial relationship existed between the grandparent and the chld. But under no circumstances will a biological grandparent of a child adopted by adoptive parents, neither of whom is related to the child and where parental rights of both biological parents have been terminated, be entitled to visitation rights. So when custody is at issue in an ongoing proceeding the grandparents have the right to sue for visitation. This is usually accomplished by a motion to intervene in an ongoing case between biological parents.
A third law allows grandparents to make a motion for custody or visitation after the custody of a child has been determined. "Grandparent" includes a biological grandparent of a child adopted by a stepparent or a relative of the child. But the same rule stated above applies with respect to adoptive parents unrelated to the child.
A fourth law allows grandparents of a minor child who has been adopted by a stepparent or a relative of the child to institute an action for visitation where a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child. Again, the same rule stated above applies with respect to adoptive parents unrelated to the child.
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