Edwards v. Anderson, 2023-NCCOA-______ (2023) (unpublished)
- Facts: Parents were never married but had one child together. The child custody order contained a provision wherein romantic guests could not stay overnight with the parent with whom custody is scheduled. Overnight was defined as any time after 8:00pm. However, the provision also noted that Plaintiff, at the time of the hearing, was residing with his girlfriend, so that the provision will apply to him should he end that relationship. Other findings established that the live-in girlfriend and Plaintiff had been dating for at least five years, had a good relationship with the minor child, and acted as a parent to the minor child. Defendant did not have any relationship at the time, and no findings were made as to the same. Defendant appealed on the basis that the overnight provision was unfair, inequitable, and implied some kind of equal protection claim, and also that the term overnight is not commonly associated with 8:00pm.
- Issue: Did the trial court err in ordering the overnight guest provision?
- Rationale: A trial court has broad discretion to fashion an order that serves the child’s best interests. Arbitrary and unreasoned decisions in custody can be overturned. In this case, it was abundantly clear that Plaintiff and his girlfriend had a positive relationship that included the minor child in their lives. The trial court took that fact into consideration and thus did not abuse discretion by carving out an exception for Plaintiff’s current girlfriend. And while 8:00pm is not technically quite “overnight,” the use of the term was also not arbitrary, as the court had discretion to draw some line at which to cut off guests. Finally, since no constitutional argument was made in the trial court, Defendant could not argue it for the first time on appeal.