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Guardianship of Minors in North Carolina

In the Matter of R.D.B., A Minor Child (No. COA19-1019)


Many children in Guilford County have guardians appointed by the court for a variety of reasons. A child who no longer has any living biological parents is a common example of when a court will appoint an adult to step in and make decisions on behalf of the minor child. In the Matter of R.D.B. addresses how petitioners Ruby and Caleb Harkness—maternal grandparents of the minor child—appealed from the order appointing Raymond Mann to serve as the guardian of the minor child R.D.B. (“Robert”).


The minor child Robert was born in September 2010. Robert’s biological father died in 2013, and from 2011 to 2014 Robert and his mother Tracee lived with Ruby and Caleb Harkness in Georgia. However, in 2014, they moved to North Carolina to live with Raymond Mann, who was Tracee’s boyfriend at the time. Tracee and Raymond later married, but Tracee died in 2017. This left Robert with no living biological parents and no natural guardian. Raymond continued to care for Robert in North Carolina even after his mother’s passing.


In October 2017, Ruby and Caleb Harkness filed a guardianship application seeking to be appointed Robert’s guardians. Raymond was served a copy of this application and provided a notice of hearing. In June 2018, the case was tried before the assistant clerk of court. The assistant clerk entered an order appointing Raymond to serve as Robert’s guardian. The Harknesses timely appealed.


Question: Did the assistant clerk of court err in naming Raymond as Robert’s guardian?


Answer: No.


On appeal, the Harknesses argued relevant statements made by Robert were not considered by the assistant clerk, but statements made by the deceased mother, Tracee, along with statements made by a licensed professional counselor were admitted and considered. During a guardianship hearing, the assistant clerk may receive a broad array of evidence to consider. While the Rules of Evidence apply to minor guardianship hearings, the Harknesses did not challenge key findings of fact by the assistant clerk. Overall, the findings made by the assistant clerk—which went unchallenged by the Harknesses—supported that Robert had a strong bond with Raymond and Raymond was the appropriate individual to be appointed Robert’s guardian.


Applications for guardianship of a minor can be complicated to navigate. If you are seeking to apply for guardianship of a minor, give contact us today and let us help you with your case