Wheeler v. Parsons (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-16-0630, 16 pp.) (John Tyson, J.) Appealed from Wilkes County District Court (Jeanie Houston, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.
Holding: Where the parties’ Tennessee consent order granted the parties “joint and equal legal and physical custody of the minor child,” the Tennessee order is a child custody determination and should have been registered pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
We vacate the trial court’s custody order and remand for findings and conclusions as to the court’s jurisdiction to modify the Tennessee consent order.
After entry of the Tennessee custody order, the parties moved to North Carolina. Defendant lives in Guilford County, and plaintiff lives in Wilkes County.
The parties stipulated that the Guilford County District Court denied defendant’s petition to register the Tennessee order “based on the court’s reasoning that the Consent Order, on its face, did not qualify as a consent order which warranted registration.” Thus, the parties’ stipulation shows that the Guilford County District Court did not conclude that plaintiff had established –as she had argued – that the child custody determination had been “vacated, stayed, or modified,” as required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), when it denied defendant’s petition to register the Tennessee consent order.
Although the Guilford County District Court did not register the Tennessee custody order, lack of registration has no effect upon the determination of subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.
The Wilkes County District Court mistakenly addressed this case as one of initial jurisdiction under G.S. § 50A-201(a)(1).
Nevertheless, North Carolina was the home state of the child on the date of commencement of this proceeding, and neither the child nor the parents currently reside in another state. All have resided in North Carolina since at least July 2011. Accordingly, the Wilkes County District Court had modification jurisdiction under G.S. § 50A-203.
Although the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, it failed to make any findings of fact or conclusions of law to show a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the Tennessee order. Due to the absence of such findings and conclusions, the order must be vacated and this case remanded for entry of a new order with additional findings of fact to address modification of custody.
Vacated and remanded.