Child Support from a Grandparent?

In Child Support by Sarah Hink

The North Carolina legislature and courts have held fast to the principle that parents have a legal duty to financially support their children. Did you know that in some circumstances, grandparents can also be ordered to pay child support for their grandchild? Before you pick up the phone and call us to get some child support orders against your parents, know that this is generally not the norm and only happens if certain conditions are met.

In Loco Parentis

North Carolina is only one of about thirteen states to enact a law regarding grandparents consistent with the common law principle of “in loco parentis”, which is Latin for in the place of a parent. Generally, this term is applied to a situation in which a grandparent has taken on a parenting role and duties regarding a minor child, without having formally adopted the child. When it comes to obligating a person acting in loco parentis to pay child support, the underlying theory is that if a parent cannot meet his or her financial responsibility, somebody (other than the state) should pick up the slack.

The North Carolina General Statutes § 50-13.4  (Action for support of minor child) sets forth the circumstances that must be demonstrated for a grandparent to be held liable for child support.

  • “[P]arents of a minor, unemancipated child who is the custodial or noncustodial parent of a child shall share this primary liability for their grandchild’s support with the minor parent, the court determining the proper share, until the minor parent reaches the age of 18 or becomes emancipated.”
  • “If both the parents of the child requiring support were unemancipated minors at the time of the child’s conception, the parents of both minor parents share primary liability for their grandchild’s support until both minor parents reach the age of 18 or become emancipated.”
  • Basically, if your teenager has a child, you as their parent may be held liable to support the baby until your teenager turns 18 or is emancipated. And further, if your adult offspring gets a teenager pregnant, you may be held liable for any unpaid child support arrearages until the teenager turns 18 or becomes emancipated.
  • Further, “[i]n the absence of pleading and proof that the circumstances otherwise warrant, any other person, agency, organization or institution standing in loco parentis shall be secondarily liable for such support.”
  • More specifically, a grandparent standing in loco parentis can be held liable for child support if the court finds it appropriate based on: (1) the “relative ability” of all other parties to provide support; (2) “the inability of one or more of [the parties] to provide support”; or “the needs and estate of the child.”

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law has more than twenty years of experience representing parties in North Carolina child custody cases. We know that children need to be financially supported and understand all of the legal nuances of how that happens. Our team of smart, hard working attorneys serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call our office at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an initial appointment, or contact us at our website.