A custody determination results when someone files a legal proceeding (an “action”) in the civil court system. This differs from a juvenile proceeding, in which the state has stepped in to determine the status of a child. It is also not guardianship, which is a special proceedings matter. There are four, separate custody statutes in North Carolina that allow a grandparent to pursue visitation/custody through the court system. They are as follows:
1. Where there is an ongoing custody dispute in the court system, a grandparent may intervene and ask for visitation under N. C. Gen. Stat. 50-13.2(b1).
2. If custody has been previously decided, but a change has occurred that requires review, the grandparent may seek custody or visitation under. N.C. Gen. Stat. 50- 13.5(j).
3. Where a child is being adopted by a stepparent or a relative, and a biological grandparent already has a relationship with that child, he or she may petition the court under N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-13.2A for continuing visitation.
4. Where the natural parents act inconsistently with their constitutionally protected status as parents, a grandparent may approach the court as a “third party” seeking custody under N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-13.1(a).
If you need help with child custody, contact your local Legal Aid of North Carolina office.