When you’re considering an award for child support, you automatically think the other parent is the one you should try to hold responsible for their share of the support. However, when grandparents are held responsible for child support, that obligation can be a little more complicated. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-13.4, if the natural parent of a child is a minor, a grandparent shares responsibility with the natural parent to provide support for that child. The dual responsibility lasts until the minor parent either turns 18 or emancipates, regardless of whether such grandparent is acting in loco parentis to the child (meaning acting as a parent to the child without formal adoption). This is especially so if such minor parent is unable to provide adequate care and support for the child.
The court takes into account the circumstances of the relationship with the natural parents and the relationship with the grandchild in determining grandparent liability. Normally, where the parent of the child is a minor, the parent and the grandparent will share primary liability. It is important to note, however, that when a grandparent does stand in loco parentis to the grandchild, the statute provides that the grandparent has only secondary liability, while the minor parent retains primary liability. Moreover, the fact that the child lives with the other parent and/or grandparents has no real effect on the parental duty: both sets of grandparents could be held responsible for the grandchild regardless of where the child’s primary residence is.
This does not mean that grandparents must go through the court to be able to provide support for their grandchildren. If a grandparent voluntarily assumes the obligation to provide support, he or she can do so without the court’s intervention. Though not required by law, an informal writing between the parties establishing the grandparent’s voluntary assumption could prove beneficial if the grandparent’s legal duty to the child is later questioned.
If you have any question about the rights and obligations of a grandparent, and what our office can do for you and your situation, please contact us at Rech Law, P.C., and we will do our best to give advice and support during this time.