In North Carolina, third parties, such as grandparents and stepparents, have very limited rights to visitation of the non-biological child if the biological parent opposes. It is a biological parent’s constitutional right to oppose visitation for a non-biological parent. Thus, a trial court is prohibited from using the best interest of the child standard when making a custody determination between a parent and a non-biological parent unless the biological parent is found to be unfit or to have neglected the child.
The language of North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.1 provides broad visitation rights to any party who can show that it would be in the best interest of the child for that person to have visitation with the child. In order for a non-biological parent to initiate a proceeding for visitation, there must be an ongoing custody case and the child’s family must not be intact. Under the “intact family” rule, a non-biological parent cannot initiate an action for visitation rights unless the child’s family is already undergoing some strain on the family relationship, such as an adoption or an ongoing custody battle. If it is determined to be an intact family, the non-biological parent must then show that the biological parent in question is either unfit, has neglected the welfare of the child, or has acted in a manner inconsistent with being a parent. Establishing one of these three requirements grants the non-biological parent standing, and then the court must use the best interest of the child standard to determine whether to grant the non-biological parent visitation of the minor child.
Overall, determining whether a non-biological third party can seek visitation of the non-biological child is determined on a case-by-case basis. Contact Hatcher Law Group to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys to help navigate the complexities of third-party visitation in North Carolina.
Contact Hatcher Law Group to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand your rights and options moving forward.