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Families come in all shapes and sizes in North Carolina and throughout the United States. In most cases, North Carolina courts attempt to keep children with their parents at all costs. However, situations may arise where parents are unable to maintain a safe environment for their kids. In these instances, grandparents may step up to the plate and ask the courts for legal custody of their grandchildren.

Before grandparents are able to seek legal custody, they must prove to the courts that the child’s parents are neglectful, abusive or unable to fulfill their duties for some other reason. Grandparents may seek custody of grandchildren in any of the following situations:

  • Abandonment
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Financial instability
  • Incarceration
  • Mental instability
  • Death

Furthermore, parents may decide they no longer want to care for their children and give up custody altogether.

Once there is proof that a parent is unstable, the court may order a home study or inspection. This involves an agency visiting the home, interviewing the prospective adoptive grandparents, performing criminal background checks and reviewing certain documents, such as financial statements, marriage certificates, income tax returns and reference letters. If the child has been living with their grandparents for at least two years, a home study may not be necessary. It is up to the discretion of the judge to determine whether to order a home study. This home evaluation can take anywhere from three to six weeks, depending on the circumstances surrounding the situation.

If the child’s parents give permission for the adoption, the grandparent may need to file a termination of parental rights. The judge presiding over the case will then look into the case and determine what is best for the children involved.