Articles Tagged with grandparents

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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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Venn Crawford, non-attorney Marketing Assistant

Divorce and its aftermath can be (and usually are) chaotic. Having kids and keeping track of all their things was tough enough, and now you have to coordinate your parenting with someone you may not even want to talk to, much less strategize with. And on top of it all, you have to manage everything on your own. Talk about a trial by fire.

Luckily for you, there’s an app for that. Or several. These apps can’t do it all for you, but they can make things easier.

SquareHub (Free)

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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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When analyzing custody, the issue of who has rights to custody of a minor is commonly focused on the biological parents of the child.  In the eyes of the law, under the right circumstances, biological parents may be disfavored in congruence to “third party” individuals who assert rights to custody.  Some of the most common third-party custody claims are, unsurprisingly, asserted from either the paternal or maternal grandparents.  North Carolina and much of the south, is known for having strong family ties and deep communal roots where grandparents often play a large role in raising not only their children, but their children’s children.  These relationships are often supplemental to the relationships between biological parents and their children, but in some situations grandparents end up being the de facto “mommy” and “daddy” to the minor children.  Where biological parents display continued behavior of either unwillingness or inability to effectively parent their children, grandparents step in and seek legal intervention for the sake of the children.

When it comes to the law, courts have a duty to put the best interest of the children above all others.  Under the Constitution of the United States, the biological parents of a minor have a protected interest in the custody, care, and control of their children.  This is an incredibly high bar to overcome for third-party individuals seeking to assert custodial rights in opposition to those possessed by biological parents.  The law provides for a vague and widely discretionary test for resolving custody disputes of this kind.  While the interest of the children are intended to be promoted above all others, biological parents maintain an almost equally powerful interest that will more often than not prevail over that of third-party individuals unless it can be shown that the parents are unfit or have engaged in some “conduct inconsistent with their protected status.”  Courts do not provide a bright line test in determining what conduct constitutes a violation, but some examples are behavior that leads to neglect of the children, abandonment of the children, and at times, the voluntary surrender of custody of the children.  This behavior must have a negative impact on the child or constitute a substantial risk of such impact.

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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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Dear Carolyn,

My wife and I have been married almost two years. Recently, and unfortunately, her grandmother passed away. Her grandmother had no immediate means to pay for funeral and burial services. The costs were paid by my wife and me on our credit card. The family has considerable land assets in Guilford County, but it is in her grandmother’s and multiple siblings’ name. My wife will inherit a portion of her grandmother’s land (split with my wife’s uncle). No one in the family has the means to buy us out, and, as is often the case, there is no reachable agreement by the family to divide the land. Is there any way to sell off some or all of what my wife is entitled to help reimburse us for the costs of the funeral and burial services?

Thanks for your helpful insight,

Jon D.


Dear Jon,

We have a solution for you!  The property can be sold to pay funeral and burial expenses, but there are several steps you must follow.

The answer assumes there was no Will, as a Will was not mentioned.

First, your spouse will need to go to the Clerk of Court, Estates Division at the Guilford County Courthouse if the grandmother died in Guilford County and open an estate file for the grandmother. If the grandmother died in another county, you need to open the estate file in that county.  Someone is going to have to qualify as the administrator of the estate.  Your wife, as a granddaughter, may apply; others may also apply, but hopefully they will not.

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While many custody disagreements involve grandparents, there are third parties who may also want custody of a couple’s children. Custody disputes can be extremely contentious and emotionally charged. At the Woodruff Family Law Group, our compassionate child custody lawyers understand the stakes are high, which is why we will zealously advocate for your rights.

In Ellison v. Ramos, a father’s former romantic interest sued him for custody of his diabetic daughter. The father and the woman were in a relationship and resided together for some time, during which the woman acted like a mother to the child. She alleged that during her relationship with the father, she was the one who cared for the child. Even after the father and she broke up, the child lived with her exclusively for almost 12 months. The father eventually took the child to Puerto Rico to live with the child’s paternal grandparents, even though they were not equipped to deal with the child’s special needs.

The child stated that the woman was the responsible “parent” when it came to her care. The child also confirmed that the woman indeed took the child to her medical appointments, bought her clothes and school supplies, and took her to school, as well as attended parent-teacher conferences. In addition, the woman provided in-home care to the child and made sure she was receiving proper care for her condition.

The woman sought the return of the child from Puerto Rico to the United States. The trial court determined that she did not have standing and dismissed the lawsuit. She appealed.

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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 →