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Domestic Relations

Domestic Relations – Equitable Distribution – Separate Property – ‘Consideration’ — Distributive Award – Dairy Farm (access required)

Williams v. Williams Once the trial court found the “Mayberry Tract” to be the defendant-husband’s separate property, the trial court was not required - as argued by the plaintiff-wife — to value the Mayberry Tract for the purpose of considering it pursuant to G.S. § 50-20(c)(1). We affirm the trial court’s equitable distribution order.

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Domestic Relations – Civil Practice – Contempt – Property Settlement – Consent Order – Real Property – Mortgages (access required)

Howard v. Flowers A consent order required that the plaintiff-husband pay the defendant-wife $50,000 each April in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and he secure those payments with a note and deed of trust in favor of the wife on the husband’s farm valued at $300,000. The husband failed to make the 2010 payment and, at a show cause hearing, testified that he was unwilling to execute the note and deed of trust required by the consent order. The husband’s own testimony was sufficient to support the trial court’s finding of willful noncompliance. We affirm the trial court’s order holding the husband in contempt.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody – Modification – Changed Circumstances – Effect on Child’s Welfare (access required)

Griffin v. Griffin Even though the mother’s planned move from Forsyth County to New Bern is a substantial change in circumstances, the trial court’s order does not indicate how this change affects the child’s welfare. We vacate the trial court’s order modifying custody and remand for further proceedings.

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Domestic Relations – Consent Order – Parent & Child – Death Benefits – Constructive Trust (access required)

Myers v. Myers A consent order’s requirement that the decedent-father name his third son as a 33 percent beneficiary of the “death benefits” from his employment unambiguously referred not only to the decedent’s life insurance but also to his retirement accounts. We affirm the imposition of a constructive trust on the death benefits from the decedent’s retirement accounts for the benefit of his youngest son, Travis.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – GAL – Abused & Neglected Juvenile (access required)

In re A.N.L. Nothing in G.S. ¤ 7B-601(a) precludes a trial court from appointing an employee of the Guardian Ad Litem Program to serve individually as a juvenile’s guardian ad litem, and volunteer guardians ad litem are not always available. The use of a properly appointed GAL Program staff member to serve as a juvenile’s GAL fully satisfies the requirements of ¤ 7B-601.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Support – Downward Modification – Insufficient Showing – Civil Practice – Draft Orders – Venue  (access required)

Orange County ex rel. Clayton v. Hamilton The defendant-father incurred no additional cost in covering his child on his wife’s health insurance policy, which also covered her son from a previous marriage; moreover, the mother was providing coverage for the child on her health insurance policy. The trial court did not err in failing to give the father credit for medical insurance coverage purchased for his child.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody & Visitation – Judges — Recusal (access required)

Howe v. Howe Even though, after the trial judge ruled on the parties’ custody motions, the transcriptionist recorded the judge’s comment to the bailiff that the plaintiff-father was “creepy”, this was an impression the judge developed during the hearing; moreover, the judge awarded the father visitation consistent with the parties’ previous practice. The trial judge did not abuse her discretion when she denied the father’s motion for reconsideration before she recused herself. We affirm the denial of the father’s motion for reconsideration under N.C. R. Civ. P. 60.

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Domestic Relations – Appeals — Parent & Child – Visitation – Sealed File – Attorney’s Fees (access required)

Church v. Church Even though the trial court’s April 30, 2009 custody order provided for a future hearing in order to review “the progress [of] the family in dealing more appropriately and respectfully with one another,” this does not change the fact that this order finally determined the parties’ custody and visitation rights. Therefore, the plaintiff-father’s Sept. 3, 2009 notice of appeal was untimely as to the April 30, 2009 custody order. We dismiss plaintiff’s appeal in part, affirm in part, and reverse and remand for further findings in part.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Visitation – Contempt – Child Support Payments – Mental Health Evaluation (access required)

Maxwell v. Maxwell Even though the trial court acted within its authority when it ordered the plaintiff-father to undergo a mental health evaluation, the trial court was nevertheless required to make findings as to the father’s unfitness as a parent or as to the children’s best interests before the trial court suspended the father’s visitation privileges. We affirm the trial court’s finding that the father was in contempt and its order that the father undergo a mental health evaluation. However, we reverse and remand for further findings with respect to the suspension of the father’s visitation privileges.

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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – GAL – ‘Representation’ (access required)

In re J.H.K. A local guardian ad litem (GAL) program “represents” a juvenile within the meaning of G.S. §§ 7B-601 and -1108 by performing the duties listed in § 7B-601; the non-lawyer GAL volunteer is not required to be physically present at a hearing to terminate parental rights. In this case, the GAL program met its obligations under § 7B-601 and those prescribed by § 7B-1108. The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court for consideration of issues not addressed by its original opinion.

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