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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody – Great Uncle – Insufficient Findings

After his wife died, the defendant-father placed his children in the care of plaintiff, his great-uncle (uncle) and continued to renew the uncle’s guardianship of the children until they had been in his care for five years. Although the trial court found that the father’s behavior amounted to abandonment and was inconsistent with his right to parent his children, the trial court failed to state that it applied a clear and convincing evidence standard in reaching this conclusion.

We reverse the trial court’s order granting custody to the uncle and awarding him attorney’s fees. We remand for further proceedings.

The trial court’s findings and conclusions are also insufficient to support an award of attorney’s fees. The trial court made no detailed findings with respect to the father’s current financial status or the uncle’s inability to pay his fees.

Strazzanti v. Dolce (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-093-18, 6 pp.) (R. Christopher Dillon, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court (Kimberly Best-Staton, J.) No brief filed for plaintiff; Richard Johnson for defendant. N.C. App. Unpub.


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