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Custody Case in Forsyth County Highlights Parental Rights

Custody and parental rights are understandably sensitive topics, which is why having an experienced North Carolina custody lawyer on your side can make a difference. Determining custody of a child is a challenging process. There are numerous laws and considerations that are factored into a custody decision, and one recent case from the Court of Appeals in Forsyth County shows how complex these cases can be.

Webb v. Jarvis

In Webb v. Jarvis[1], the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the maternal grandmother in the case could pursue child custody. Shortly before dying from cancer, the biological mother of the child expressed to the grandmother that she wanted the child to live with the grandmother. The father consented to this placement, and the grandmother was appointed guardian.

Less than two years later, the father was convicted of a felony and imprisoned, making him a habitual felon since this was not his first conviction. The child’s maternal grandfather and his wife sought visitation with the child, naming the maternal grandmother and father as defendants. The maternal grandmother filed a counterclaim and crossclaim to maintain custody of the child. The child’s father did not believe the grandmother had standing to file for custody, so he filed a motion to dismiss.

What Does This Ruling Mean?

This case involved multiple parties and many factors, so it was an especially complex example of parental rights and custody decisions. Essentially, the Court decided that the grandmother did have the right to seek custody of the child. In North Carolina, an order for custody can be awarded to any person or agency “as will best promote the interest and welfare of the child[2].” The foremost goal of any court deciding on child custody is the well-being and best interests of that child, not necessarily the familial relationship or status.

Non-parents and other third parties, like the maternal grandmother in Webb v. Jarvis, can file for custody under certain circumstances. If the third party can prove that the parents cannot properly care for the child or have not behaved in a way consistent with their rights as a parent, then they may be awarded custody[3]. In this case, the biological father did not exercise his parental rights because he agreed to the child’s placement with the grandmother, and he knowingly engaged in activity that led to him becoming a habitual felon.

How are Parental Rights Lost?

Parents in North Carolina can lose their parental rights in a number of ways, including abuse, neglect, and abandonment. If a parent intentionally places their child with someone outside of the home for at least one year and does not make a reasonable effort to reunify with the child, they may have their parental rights terminated[4].

If you have questions about parental rights concerns, discussing your circumstances with a custody lawyer in Greensboro, NC, is a good idea. Call The Woodruff Family Law Group to learn what the next steps in your custody case may be.

[1] WEBB V. JARVIS. 2022-NCCOA-499.

[2] North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.2.

[3] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Child Custody.

[4] North Carolina General Statutes. § 7B-1111.