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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody Modification – Changed Circumstances – Starting School – Visitation Curtailed

Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody Modification – Changed Circumstances – Starting School – Visitation Curtailed

Dickason v. Hayes (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-16-0230, 12 pp.) (Sam Ervin IV, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court. (Paige B. McThenia, J.) N.C. App. Unpub. Full-text opinion.

Holding: Even if acrimony and conflict between the parties were not new when the plaintiff-father moved for a custody modification, the defendant-mother did not challenge the trial court’s finding that she failed to work with the father to adjust his visitation to accommodate their child’s school schedule.

We affirm the trial court’s order granting primary custody to the father.

The trial court concluded that a “substantial and material change in circumstances adversely affecting the minor child” had occurred based upon the following factors: (1) the fact that, after the father voluntarily relinquished two of his allotted visitation days in order to avoid interfering with the child’s education, the defendant-mother failed to accommodate that gesture by facilitating visitation between father and child at alternative dates and times, resulting in an adverse effect on the relationship between father and child; (2) the fact that the mother frequently initiated conflicts between the parties in the child’s presence; (3) the fact that the mother had been found in contempt of the original custody order for making telephone calls to the father’s employer concerning custody and support-related issues on two prior occasions; (4) the fact that the mother repeatedly attempted to question the father concerning his personal life and parenting issues; (5) the fact that the mother failed to inform the father about the child’s medical situation; (6) the fact that, unlike the mother, the father had been unable to maintain steady employment; and (7) the fact that the mother , unlike the father , had changed her residence four times since the entry of the prior custody order.

The mother has not argued that Findings of Fact Nos. 5 and 6, which address the father’s voluntary relinquishment of visitation and the mother’s failure to make the child available for visitation with the father at alternative times, lack adequate evidentiary support or that these findings fail to provide adequate support for the trial court’s ultimate conclusion that a substantial change in circumstances sufficient to support modification of the prior custody order had occurred.

Given that the mother has failed to make any challenge to an integral part of the trial court’s basis for concluding that the existing custody order should be modified, we affirm the modification order.

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