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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody Modification – Private Preschool – Child Support Credit

Since the parties’ child, “Elizabeth,” has reached the age to attend pre-kindergarten, this circumstance and others support the trial court’s finding of a change of circumstances affecting Elizabeth’s welfare. Over the course of the months leading up to the time for Elizabeth to start pre-K, the defendant-mother expressed general reservations about private school, but she neither specified any objections to the school suggested by the plaintiff-father nor suggested any particular public school for Elizabeth to attend. Under these circumstances, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion when it granted plaintiff sole decision-making authority over where to send Elizabeth for pre-K.

However, the trial court found that plaintiff “communicated to Defendant that he is now prepared to be solely responsible for paying” Elizabeth’s tuition at the private school, and the court decreed, “Plaintiff shall be responsible for the tuition fees and expenses of the minor child owed to Trinity Christian School.” Yet, on the child support worksheet, the court gave plaintiff credit for the tuition, effectively requiring defendant to share this expense. While such a support allocation was within the trial court’s discretion, we cannot determine from the record whether the trial court actually intended this result.

Affirmed in part. We vacate the modification order in part and remand for the limited purpose of amending the order to clarify the basis of plaintiff’s child support obligation.

Hines v. Nichols (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-462-22, 14 pp.) (Darren Jackson, J.) Appealed from Pitt County District Court (Lee Teague, J.) Teresa DeLoatch Bryant for defendant; no brief for plaintiff. 2022-NCCOA-751


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