If you are an intended parent who lives in a state that does not allow more than two persons to be named as legal parents on a child’s birth certificate, it is valuable to consider all your options when deciding the legal structure of your growing family. The law is not structured to deal with or protect non-traditional families, so existing legal structures have to be adapted and carefully applied to fit your situation. Because this is a complicated process and every non-traditional family is unique, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney to learn which options will be the best fit for your child before you take any steps to establish a parenting arrangement with three or more people. Continue reading →
Suozzo v. Suozzo, 2022-NCCOA-620.
Facts: Plaintiff wife and Defendant husband entered into a separation agreement wherein Defendant was to pay Plaintiff $200,000 in monthly installments over 240 months. This arrangement began in March 2006 and would terminate in March of 2026. For the first 18-36 months, Defendant made the monthly payment. Sometime in 2008, Defendant stopped making those payments. Plaintiff chose to file a breach of contract claim against Defendant but not until 2019, more than ten years since Defendant stopped paying. The trial court awarded Plaintiff $100,789 in damages, calculated by granting only the missed payments due within three years of the commencement of Plaintiff’s action—as any unpaid installments due prior to February 2016 were barred by the statute of limitations—and the payments that became due while the action was pending through judgment. Defendant appealed. Continue reading →
In the United States, fewer than half of the children live in a household with just their siblings and married parents. The other children live in a variety of relationships and family structures that often mean that more than two people act as parents in a child’s life. Continue reading →
Webb v. Jarvis, 2022-NCCOA-499 (unpublished).
This is a case for non-parent custody. Defendant Jarvis and Sarah Webb had a child together. They were not married. The parents shared custody of the minor child pursuant to a parenting agreement. In 2015, Sarah Webb unfortunately passed from cervical cancer. At the time Sarah died, she was living with her sister, Tina Peatross, the other Defendant in this case. Presumably, Sarah Webb exercised her custodial time at the Peatross home.
Before Sarah Webb died, she expressed her wishes that the minor child live with Peatross. Jarvis consented to Webb being a guardian for the minor child. In 2017, Jarvis was arrested for drug related charges and attained habitual felon status; it was his custodial weekend when he was arrested. Plaintiff Sarah Webb’s mother and father (minor child’s maternal grandparents) filed for visitation in 2017 prior to Jarvis’ arrests. Peatross counterclaimed for custody. Jarvis filed a motion to dismiss based on standing.
The trial court in 2020 found that Peatross had standing, and that Jarvis had acted inconsistent with constitutional parental rights. Jarvis appealed. Continue reading →
Plaintiff Jolin Brady (“Mother”) and Defendant Erron Brady (“Father”) were married on April 26, 1997. Father and Mother had four children. Father was in undergraduate school at Brigham Young University when the parties married. While Father was in dental school, Mother worked as a paralegal and then stopped working when the parties’ eldest son was born. In 2002, Father and Mother moved to Charlotte, North Carolina once Father finished dental school. Father owns his own dental practice. In 2014, Mother began working as a part-time yoga instructor.
Turner v. Oakley, 2022-NCCOA-266.
Facts: The parties to the case had one child together and never married. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint for custody of the child. He was granted secondary custody, with Defendant having primary custody. In 2018, Plaintiff filed an emergency custody ex parte motion, and alleged that there had been a substantial change in circumstances that affected the child’s welfare since the entry of the 2013 order. The trial court granted the emergency custody motion and, at the end of the hearing on emergency custody, granted Plaintiff primary physical and legal custody. Defendant was granted supervised visitation. Defendant moved for a visitation schedule in 2019. Orders were entered that addressed a visitation schedule. Then, in 2019, Defendant responded to Plaintiff’s custody motion filed in 2018. In 2020, the trial court entered orders modifying the 2013 child custody order, granting primary custody to Defendant. Plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →
Hill v. Durrett, 2022-NCCOA-460.
Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant were married in a friend’s backyard in 2015, and just 14 months later the couple separated. The backyard ceremony was officiated by a Ms. Plante, who was a Reiki master known as Azera Moonhawk. Ms. Plante was Defendant’s friend and was a minister of the Universal Life Church but was not authorized to perform weddings. Plaintiff eventually filed a divorce and equitable distribution action. Plaintiff also sought to have the marriage annulled based on Ms. Plante’s insufficient ordination. Plaintiff did not survive the proceedings and died before they were concluded; his estate carried on with the annulment. Defendant was the one who arranged the entire backyard extravaganza. She was the one who was good friends with Plante/Moonhawk. She was the one who told Plaintiff that Plante was qualified to perform the ceremony. She was the one who confirmed with Plante whether she could perform the ceremony. The trial court annulled. Defendant appealed.
Issue: Was the Plaintiff (his estate) equitably estopped from seeking an annulment?
Military Parents and Relocation
Part of being in the military is having very limited input as to where you are stationed. If you are a military parent who is not with your child’s other parent, this can mean moving far away from them. A move like that can have a major impact on the custody of your children.
No matter where you are stationed, it is important to reach out to a civilian family law attorney when dealing with custody. Custody is civilian law, and your JAG corps will not be able to help you very much. Which court has jurisdiction over your child is usually based on where your child has lived for the past six months. If you have moved around often due to military service, it may be difficult to determine what court you should file in without the help of an experienced attorney. Continue reading →
Hicks v. Hicks, 2022-NCCOA-139.
Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant attended a mediation to attempt to settle the Equitable Distribution and alimony parts of their case. In mediation, they reached a settlement and memorialized their terms in a consent order, entered in September of 2018. Among those terms, Defendant received a parcel of land with a requirement to refinance the loan to remove Plaintiff’s name and debt. Defendant also received another parcel of land, with a similar refinance provision. Finally, the consent order provided that Plaintiff shall pay a distributive award to Defendant for $87,500, on or before January 1, 2019. Defendant was having difficulty refinancing the loans on the parcels he received. Plaintiff’s counsel reached out the Defendant’s new counsel to discuss the issue of the loans, but then noticed that “Plaintiff” and “Defendant” on the distributive award provision were interchanged (the parties agreed that Plaintiff would be receiving the award). Plaintiff thus filed a Rule 60 motion on April 15, 2020, requesting that the court correct a clerical mistake under 60(a) or such other justifiable relief under 60(b)(6). Plaintiff and her attorney testified that it was the mutual agreement that Plaintiff receive the award, and Defendant pay it. The trial court granted relief under 60(b)(6) and amended the typo. Defendant appeals. Continue reading →
Custody and Deployment
Being deployed or stationed somewhere that your child cannot follow is a major stressor for parents in the military. How will your child do without you? What will your life be like without them around? If you are not with your child’s other parent, you also have another concern – what will happen to your custody arrangement while you are gone? Will the other parent allow your family members to maintain their relationships with your child? In case there isn’t already a plan in place for your deployment, the courts in North Carolina have a process to help you get any custody issues settled before you leave. Continue reading →