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Substantial Change in Circumstances in North Carolina Child Custody Agreements – Pulliam v. Smith

If you have an existing child custody order that you want to change, the process can be quite complex. A North Carolina parent cannot just unilaterally change any type of child custody agreement. At the Woodruff Family Law Group, our seasoned family law lawyers can help you determine if your circumstances will permit a child custody modification. With years of experience, we are well versed in this are of law and can put our knowledge to use in your case.

In Pulliam v. Smith, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the evidence supported the trial court’s decision to modify an out-of-state child custody judgment and an award of exclusive custody to the former wife as a result of the former husband’s homosexual relationship and activities.

The court highlighted that a change in a custodial parent’s residence is not itself a substantial change in circumstances justifying a modification of the custody order. However, if the location is detrimental to the child’s well being, the change in residence of the custodial parent is a substantial change in circumstances and justifies a modification of custody.

In addition, the court held that a change in circumstances does not need to adversely affect the child. A beneficial change could also support a modification. Instead, the court has to weigh any change in circumstances and make findings as to each of them. This is because both positive and negative changes can significantly affect a child’s overall growth and development.

Once the court makes the threshold determination that a substantial change has occurred, it must then evaluate whether the requested custody change would be in the best interest of the child. This is a broad standard that allows the judge to consider virtually any factor relevant to parenting.

It is important to note that in Pulliam, the North Carolina Supreme Court determined that a homosexual parent is entitled to the same consideration as a heterosexual parent when it comes to decisions of custody and visitation. A parent’s sexual orientation by itself should not be an issue unless it can be shown that that the child would be adversely affected if left in the care of that parent. However, in the case at hand, the court’s decision to remove the child from the home was in part due to the fact that the homosexual parent was not married to his partner, and he was inappropriately affectionate with the partner in front of the children. Additionally, the court noted that there were photos of drag queens in the home, and it deemed these to be “improper sexual material in the home.”

If you want to learn more about your child custody modification options, it is important to reach out to a seasoned North Carolina family law attorney. At the Woodruff Family Law Group, we can work diligently to advocate for your rights. We understand that any matter involving your children should be handled with the utmost urgency and compassion. This is why we take pride in keeping our clients informed at each step of the way. For more information, do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 336-272-9122.

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