If both biological parents of a North Carolina child die, or if they are not fit to care for the child for some reason, an older sibling might want to get custody. In order to do this, the sibling must be at least 18 and legally emancipated.
If the parents are deceased and the sibling has been named in their wills as the child’s legal guardian, the process may be less difficult. In some cases, biological parents might also agree to relinquish custody. However, if neither of these is the case, the situation becomes more complicated. A judge will be reluctant to remove a child from the biological parents. The sibling will need to provide proof that child is in danger of harm.
Even if this occurs, the sibling must demonstrate the ability to support the child and provide a stable environment. If the child has already been removed from the home and placed in the foster system, the sibling might have a better chance of getting custody. Usually, the preference is for the child to be placed with a relative instead of with strangers. A sibling who is unable to get custody may apply for visitation rights.
Child custody can be a difficult issue. Emotions are high, and the parties fighting for custody may all believe they are acting in the best interests of the child. This is the standard a judge uses in order to make a custody decision. Factors a judge may consider when deciding who will get primary custody of a child may include the strength of the child’s relationship with the person seeking custody, how much disruption the child will undergo in moving to a new environment, and how well the child will be able to maintain relationships with other family members.