Limitations on Grandparent Standing
As discussed, above, several statutes confer standing on grandparents in specific situations.
As noted, grandparents have no standing to seek visitation against parents when children are living in an "intact family" where there are no allegations of parental unfitness or misconduct. An intact family means that the child is living with his or her parents and there is not an ongoing child custody dispute in the court system. The "intact family" rule has also been extended to children who live with a single parent following the death or disappearance of the other parent.
On the other hand, if there is an ongoing custody dispute, a court order for custody can provide for visitation rights by the grandparents. It is important for a grandparent seeking visitation to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit as soon as possible in order to preserve their visitation rights.
If the court has already entered a custody order in which the grandparents were a party, the grandparents may seek increased or changed visitation upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. As noted above, a grandparent may intervene in an ongoing custody case between the child's parents.
Standing of Other Third Parties to Seek Visitation
North Carolina law does not recognize visitation rights for any specific class of third parties other than grandparents. .
As noted in our previous article on third party custody, third parties other than grandparents may seek custody of children under certain circumstances, such as where a parent has died or has engaged in misconduct, or where the third party has gained quasi-parental status.
Paradoxically, domestic partners, step-parents, and others who formerly had a close relationship with a child may thus find it more difficult to obtain the right to visitation with a child than to obtain custody of the child.
An experienced North Carolina Child Custody lawyer can guide you through many of these questions and obstacles. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our Winston-Salem attorneys, contacts us today.