Maybe. It depends on the circumstances, such as whether leaving them with you was intended to be temporary and whether they have remained involved in their children’s lives.
When grandparents seek custody, however, there is usually something serious going on. Your child may be addicted to drugs. They may be mentally ill. They may have abandoned the children and failed to support them.
If you’re considering seeking custody of your grandchildren, we urge you to talk to a compassionate lawyer as soon as possible. Getting custody of grandchildren is legally challenging in North Carolina, but it is possible in the right circumstances.
There is a high bar
Both the U.S. Constitution and North Carolina’s constitution protect fundamental rights and liberties. The courts have also recognized that the right to parent your children is among those fundamental rights and liberties.
Therefore, in principle, the state can’t take someone’s kids away without proving them unfit to parent. That includes giving custody to a grandparent.
In North Carolina, therefore, grandparents can only get custody when “the natural parents act inconsistently with their constitutionally protected status as parents” and they can show getting custody would be in the children’s best interest.
The first part does not require you to prove abuse, neglect or abandonment, but those would be strong evidence that the parents are acting inconsistently with their status. At a minimum, you must provide compelling evidence that the parents have consistently made decisions adverse to the children.
Once you have shown that to the court, it will consider whether it is in the children’s best interests to be in your custody.
The court will consider any relevant factors to determine that, such as:
- Your living arrangements
- Your ability to care for the children
- Your relationship with the children
- If you have been acting as the children’s primary caregiver
- Your occupation and work schedule
- Your family support network
Only if the court rules you are the best available choice for the kids will you be given custody. If you are, the children will remain permanently in your care, presumably until they reach age 18.
Grandparent custody cases can be emotional and challenging. It’s important to work with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile for you.