Adams v. Langdon v. Malone, ___ N.C. App. ___, 826 S.E.2d 236 (2019)

Held: 
Reversed and Remanded
  • Relevant Facts: Father filed a child custody action against mother. In 2011, father obtained a temporary custody order granting him primary custody of their child. In 2012, maternal grandmother filed a motion to intervene in the custody dispute, which was granted. Also in 2012, a permanent custody order was entered that provided sole custody to father, visitation of one weekend/month plus one additional Saturday/month with grandmother, and no visitation with mother. In Sept. 2017 in a separate termination of parental rights (TPR) action initiated by father, mother’s parental rights were terminated. In Nov. 2017, grandmother/intervenor filed a show case motion for visitation in the custody action. In 2018, the trial court ruled the custody action did not survive the TPR and grandmother’s visitation rights terminated with the termination of mother’s parental rights. Grandmother appealed that order. (Note, grandmother appealed another order in the custody action that is not addressed in this summary).
  • Grandmother’s visitation rights were not extinguished by the termination of mother’s parental rights. In 2012, prior to the TPR, grandmother intervened and obtained an order giving her visitation rights in the parent’s ongoing custody dispute. Because she became a party to a custody proceeding, “the court has the ability to award or modify visitation even if no ongoing custody dispute exists between the parents at the time.” Sl. at 11 quoting Quisinberry v. Quisinberry, 196 N.C. App. 118, 122 (2009). Once grandmother became a party, she is a party for all purposes. This is similar to the situation in Sloan v. Sloan, 164 N.C. App. 190 (2004). After the unexpected death of the child’s father, the court retained jurisdiction of the custody action between the parents and permitted the paternal grandparents to intervene and seek a modification and enforcement of the custody order that was entered in that action prior to the father’s death that awarded them telephonic visits with their grandchild. The intervenor’s visitation rights exist independently of the mother’s parental and custodial rights such that she could seek to enforce through rights through contempt proceedings.
Category:
Civil Cases with Application to Child Welfare
Stage:
Custody
Topic:
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