At Dickerson Law Firm, P.A., in North Carolina, it is our goal to help families resolve disputes in the best interests of the children involved. Grandparents often have a special relationship with their grandchildren, and as a grandparent, you may wonder how your child’s divorce will affect your ability to spend time with your grandchild. 

According to the UNC School of Government, grandparents may intervene and seek visitation only in certain circumstances, during a custody case. If your child is not currently in a custody dispute, even if he or she has had parental rights terminated, then the court may not grant you standing to seek visitation. The same goes for circumstances when a parent dies and the grandparent has not yet sought to intervene.  

However, recently an appeals court ruled that a grandmother could continue to have visitation rights even though she had not been an intervener in the case terminating her daughter’s parental rights. Here are the facts of that case: 

  • The father received custody and the mother received supervised visitation due to mental health and substance abuse issues. The maternal grandmother supervised the mother’s visitation. 
  • A temporary order terminated the mother’s rights to visitation during substance abuse assessment and testing, and because the custody case was on-going between the parents, the grandmother was able to successfully file a motion at that time to intervene and receive visitation. 
  • The mother later received supervised visitation again, but the grandmother’s visitation rights remained intact. 
  • Five years later, the father filed a new proceeding to terminate the mother’s rights, and the court granted it. The grandmother filed a motion for contempt because the father denied her access to the child.  
  • Initially, the court ruled that the closing of the custody case meant that the grandmother could not file for contempt. However, the appeals court ruled that the grandmother already had visitation rights, and the mother’s loss of parental rights and the closing of the case could not cancel out the grandmother’s previously granted status as a formal party to the proceeding. 

As this case illustrates, the state has strict rules for grandparents who wish to have visitation rights. If you would like more information regarding custody and visitation, please visit our webpage.