Articles Posted in Grandparents

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In North Carolina, custody can be modified when there is a substantial change of circumstances, but importantly, this change need not be adverse. A positive change can also be the basis for a modification of North Carolina child custody. In a recent appellate decision, the court considered modification of custody in a child’s best interest at a grandparent’s request. The case arose from the modification of a 2012 custody order. The plaintiffs were the paternal grandparents of two children, and the plaintiff’s son was the children’s father. The children’s mother had gotten married since an earlier order of the court and her interests were opposed to the father and grandparents’ interests.

An earlier custody order had given the father sole legal and physical custody of the children. The mother had visitation rights. The father and children lived with the grandparents at that time. The father had limited intelligence and education and needed to rely on his parents. However, the mother admitted to the father that she used drugs and alcohol excessively at one point, and that she was hanging out with a man who was later imprisoned for meth sales. She wasn’t able to keep a job and had to move multiple times due to an inability to pay rent and utilities.

When the kids were five and two, their grandmother found the house covered in trash and alcohol and one of the kids had cut herself due to glass being on the floor. She removed the child from the mother’s home.

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Carolyn Woodruff, J.D., C.P.A, C.V.A.

Dear Carolyn,

I am a grandmother, and I want to help pay for the tuition for my grandchild’s day care and education at a nice day care facility.  Then, my daughter and son-in-law can work without worry.  They own their own business, and they both need to focus some quality time on the business, while maintaining my grandson as top priority.  My toddler grandson will benefit from the education and interaction with the other children at this particular day care, but it is darn expensive.  Should I give the money directly to my daughter or to the day care?  Is there a tax advantage one way or another?

           – Grandmother of the best grandchild ever…

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Hello Carolyn,

I have a question regarding grandchildren who are in the custody of the grandparents.

Here is the scenario. My wife and I have legal custody of three grandchildren ages 13, 12, and 9.  We were granted legal custody by the court about 18 months ago.  Before that, we had been granted temporary custody of the children.  We have been given permanent custody because the parents cannot/will not take proper care of the children.  The father has a drug problem and has not completed court order drug rehab, nor has he presented us a drug test showing negative results.  There is a court order for child support, but he does not pay it.  He stays off the radar so Child Support Services can’t locate him.  The Mom is bipolar and refuses to take her medications and see her psychiatrist on a continuing basis.  The parents have minimum  contact with the kids

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Toni Maurie Gwynn was a 17-month angel who died July 10, 2013 in Eden, North Carolina. She was found suffocated and strapped to a car seat. Apparently, she had not had food or water for many hours.

The latest “who dun it” was resolved last week with her father Antonio Gwynn pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

The mother who is being sentenced for manslaughter helped the police and sheriff’s department find a missing blanket in a pond in Rockingham County. The blanket was the murder weapon.

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Dear Carolyn,

I know I should have kept my mouth shut during the divorce, but I didn’t. My daughter-in-law ended up with custody (not that it wasn’t somewhat justified), but now she is taking it out on us and won’t let my husband and I see our own grandchildren.  We worked hard and saved all of our lives, and now we have time and enough money for trips to the beach, mountains, even Disney World, and would love to take our grandchildren, but we aren’t even allowed to take them out for ice cream.  As grandparents do we have any rights?


Carolyn Answers:

You are in luck! The judge can help you, in his or her discretion.  The glitter of Disney with your grandchildren may very well be in your future.

North Carolina General Statute 50-13.5(j) covers the rights of custody and visitation of grandparents. You will need to file a motion (a written request to the court filed with the clerk of court) if you cannot obtain the visitation with your grandchildren from one of the parents. Continue reading →

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Divorce can affect many relationships, and it is not unusual for grandparents to lose contact with their grandchildren in the process. Are you are a grandparent seeking custody or visitation of your grandchildren? If so, we may be able to help. At the Woodruff Family Law Group, our skilled North Carolina family law attorneys can meticulously analyze your facts and let you know your rights and options.

Under North Carolina law, grandparents can only seek custody and visitation with their minor grandchildren in certain circumstances. One such situation is if both the child’s parents are unfit (i.e., due to drug addiction, abuse, etc.) or unable to care for the child. An inability to care for the child may arise due to a serious disability or death. In such cases, the grandparents could report the parent’s unfit behavior or inability to care for the child to the court and request custody of the child.

North Carolina law allows a grandparent to intervene in an ongoing custody dispute and request visitation with a child. Grandparents cannot, however, seek visitation when their grandchildren are living in an intact family. In the case of McIntyre v. McIntyre, the paternal grandparents, whose son was deceased but had separated from his wife prior to his death, filed a claim for visitation with their minor granddaughter, who lived with her mother at the time. Since one parent was deceased, there was no custody action pending between the children’s parents. Continue reading →

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

Recently we went home to Pennsylvania to visit my husband’s 88-year-old grandfather. He is the patriarch of the family and provides warm bear hugs any time we visit with a “Welcome home” whispered in your ear. He is the baby of 12 siblings and has survived two heart attacks and a stroke. Needless to say, he is a real fighter. During Easter dinner, he collapsed and coded twice after being rushed to the hospital. We were in North Carolina and were afraid that we would not be able to say goodbye. He received a pacemaker and defibrillator and now is back to his barrel laughs and typical jokes at a rehabilitation center.  Seeing him and his wife, who we call Memie, made me thankful that my husband’s parents had the difficult conversation several years ago with them about downsizing and moving into a retirement home.

Memie and Pappy lived in a 1930’s colonial style home with bedrooms upstairs and a washer and dryer in the basement.  When they both passed their 80th birthday, we could all see that it was harder and harder to go up and down steps. This house was Memie’s dream house; we loved visiting them because it felt like we were actually home. When the topic of downsizing was first brought up, it was met with a defiant, no! They wanted to live out their last days in the home they always dreamed of.

After having more delicate conversations and Memie seeing Pappy having more issues climbing the stairs every night, they agreed to at least tour a few facilities in the Pennsylvania mountainside. They found one they liked, after many objections, it was in an apartment in a larger retirement community. The amenities offered were a restaurant just steps from their apartment door, library, craft room, and entertainment center. Once Memie heard she would not have to cook, and a cleaning service would come in monthly to do a deep cleaning, she was sold. Continue reading →

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This is a must-see movie for grandparents seeking custody, particularly if the opposing parties are really the paternal grandparents vs. the maternal grandparents.  In a complex fact pattern, everyone gets it right in the end, after a movie filled with struggles.  All looked after the seven-year-old Eloise’s best interests, although it was certainly shaky for a while in the movie.

Kevin Costner plays Elliott Anders, a grandfather, who, with his wife Carol, is raising their granddaughter, cute and vivacious Eloise.   Carol and Elliott’s daughter died of congenital heart disease giving birth to cute, seven-year-old Eloise, who lives with Elliott and Carol.  Then, Carol dies suddenly in a car accident.  Eloise is in the third grade at an advanced school in Los Angeles.  Grandfather Elliott is immediately in the primary parent position with lots of new skill sets to learn, not to mention the grieving for his wife’s sudden death.

Continue reading →