You may worry about your access to your grandchildren if their parents are divorcing. Your child and their spouse may be going through a fierce custody battle and are using your grandchildren as pawns. Or, you might have concerns about their parental fitness and feel your grandchildren are safer in your care. As more families are isolated in their homes due to COVID-19, child custody has become an increasingly highly debated topic in recent divorce cases.

In either case, you may wonder if you can pursue custody of your grandchildren or guarantee visitation. Depending on their family’s circumstances – and on your timing – you may be able to.

Rights to custody

North Carolina courts presume that a child’s biological or adoptive parents are the individuals best suited to take care of them. Thus, in most divorce cases, the state will award custody to one or both them. If you can establish that both parents are either unfit or have waived their parental rights in some way, you can seek custody of the children if you have a close relationship with them.  Because the right to parent is a constitutional right, you must have solid evidence that can be presented to a court for the possibility of success.

Rights to grandparent visitation

Depending on the circumstances of your child’s divorce, you may have difficulty accessing your grandchildren once it finalizes. If this is a possibility, you will want to petition for visitation as part of their custody case. To receive it, you must demonstrate that you have a substantial relationship with your grandchildren.  The standard for grandparent visitation is much less than for custody; but timing for bringing this claim is everything.

An attorney with extensive family law experience can discuss your options and whether you have a reasonable case.