“The highest courts of both the State of North Carolina and the United States have consistently recognized as fundamental the right of parents to raise their children,” said Jere Royall, counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council, in testimony before the N.C. House Judiciary III Committee this week. On Wednesday, April 15, the committee was considering House Bill 413-Expand Grandparent Visitation Rights, a bill that would broaden the circumstances in which grandparents could go to court and sue for visitation rights with their grandchildren.
“It is unfortunate when family situations arise that cause parents to deny grandparents the ability to visit their grandchildren,” Royall told the committee, “but a parental decision to do so should not create standing for the grandparents to seek a judicial determination as to the reasonableness of the decision and force a parent or parents to defend their actions in court.”
Under current North Carolina law, a biological grandparent may institute an action for visitation with a grandchild: if the parents are divorcing and the custody of a child is at issue; if custody of the child has been determined and the circumstances regarding custody have changed; or if the child is adopted by a stepparent or relative and a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child.
For years, legislation has been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly to expand the circumstances under which grandparents could seek visitation rights in court over the objection of the child’s parent(s) living in an intact family. The North Carolina Family Council has consistently opposed these efforts, because this legislation would violate the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children, including the right to determine with whom their children associate.
The House Judiciary III Committee did not take final action on the bill, but may consider it again in a future meeting.
For more information on this issue, including a further explanation of why the North Carolina Family Policy Council opposes House Bill 413, please be sure to read our Issue Brief.