Weideman v. Shelton, 247 N.C. App. 875 (2016)

  • Facts: Chris is the child at issue in this custody case. Shelton is his mother, and Weideman is his maternal grandmother. Wise was Weideman’s domestic partner, who helped raised Shelton. Chris was born in December of 2006, when Shelton was residing with Weideman (her mother) and Wise. Although she initially cared for Chris, she asked for their help because of her depression and other mental health issues that caused her to act erratically. Shelton self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.  In August 2007, Weideman and Wise contacted an attorney to draft a legal “guardianship appointment,” which was subsequently executed by all 3 parties. However, an addendum was added to reflect Shelton’s intent that the guardianship appointment be temporary. Shelton lived in the household off and on until 2009 when Wise banned her from the house. Later in 2009, Wise and Weideman separated, and Chris shared his time between the two residences. Shelton saw Chris when he was with Weideman although Wise attempted to ban her from seeing Chris even when he was with Weideman and informed Shelton that she had no rights to him. In 2011, Shelton was in therapy, on the correct medication regime, found secure housing, and was sober. Although she saw Chris when he was with Weideman and attempted to assert parental control during those visits, she and Weideman agreed that Weideman should have custody, and a consent custody order was entered in 2012. Weideman prohibited Wise from having contact with Chris, and Wise filed a motion to intervene (which was granted),  a motion to set aside the custody order (which was denied), and a motion for custody and visitation (which was denied). Wise appealled.   
  • Wise, the non-parent, failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that Shelton, the mother, acted inconsistently with her protected parental status to care, custody, and control of her child. The mother never intended to permanently cede her parental rights to a non-parent. Instead, she made a temporary arrangement as evidenced by the addendum to the guardianship appointment that explicitly stated it was temporary and by remaining involved in her son’s life. The transcript of the custody hearing also reflected the mother’s intention that the custody arrangement be temporary as it would allow her to continue to be an active participant in her son’s life and provide her the opportunity to assert her role as his parent to a progressively greater degree. Unlike Wise, Weideman allowed for contact between Shelton and Chris and allowed Shelton to assert parental control, so custody to Weideman allowed Shelton to see her son and prevented Wise from prohibiting Shelton from seeing her son. These actions are not inconsistent with the mother’s protected parental status.
  • Wise, the non-parent, cannot simultaneously intentionally prevent the mother from having a relationship with her son and argue that the mother has failed to shoulder her burden to care for her son.





Civil Cases with Application to Child Welfare
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