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Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in North Carolina?


Alexander J. King

Grandparents are often an integral part of a child’s life; however, when a grandchild’s parents separate or divorce, it often becomes difficult for a grandparent to spend meaningful time with their grandchildren. In North Carolina; however, a grandparent may petition the court for custody or visitation rights in certain situations. The attorneys at King and Rowe, PLLC are here to discuss your rights as a grandparent and what steps you should take to maintain contact with your grandchildren.

Can a Grandparent be awarded Custody of their Grandchild in North Carolina?

Although complicated, it is possible for a grandparent to seek custody of their grandchildren under North Carolina law provided certain conditions are met. A grandparent may be awarded custody of a grandchild when:

  • The Grandparent is able to prove that BOTH parents are unfit;

  • The biological or adopted parents of the child are deceased;

  • The biological or adopted parents of the child have acted in a manner inconsistent with their constitutionally protected rights as parents;

  • There is evidence of abuse or neglect within the custodial parents’ home;

  • BOTH parents agree/consent to give custody to the grandparent

Even if a grandparent is able to prove one of the above factors, a North Carolina court still must find that awarding custody of a child to his or her grandparent would be in that child’s best interests.

If Custody of a Grandchild is not an option, what about Visitation?

In many cases, a grandparent may not wish or be able to petition the court for custody of a grandchild. Fortunately, a grandparent may still ask the court to award visitation under N.C.G.S. § 50-13.1 if there is an ACTIVE child custody action pending between the child’s parents. An active case is one in which a final Order of child custody has not yet been rendered by the Court.

Before a North Carolina judge will award visitation for a grandparent, he or she must first determine that the grandparent has a “substantial relationship” with the grandchild and that an award of visitation would be in the grandchild’s best interests.

If you are a grandparent who wants to discuss your rights for custody and/or visitation with your grandchildren, the attorneys at King & Rowe, PLLC are here to help. We offer in-person or telephone consultations and can be reached at (828) 466-3858 or by email at

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