Three Legislative Changes Approved by NCBA BOG

Dave Holm

Brent Tanner

By Dave Holm and Brent Tanner

Your NCBA Family Law Section made four legislative proposals that were approved by the NCBA Board of Governors and made part of our association’s 2019 legislative session agenda.  We are pleased to inform you that all four proposals passed the legislature and have been signed by Governor Cooper. Three of our proposals can be found in House Bill 469. (The fourth proposal does not take effect until December 1, 2019, and will be the subject of another blog post.) Thank you to Representative Sarah Stevens for being the primary sponsor in the House and to Senator Danny Britt for helping to shepherd the bill though the Senate.

House Bill 469 became effective  October 1, 2019, and contains the following provisions. Please click on this link to see the bill:

Part  1 – Revision to NCGS 50-20.1 “Pensions, retirement and deferred compensation benefits

(Thanks to Whit Clanton for chairing the drafting committee and to all for served on this committee.)

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By Ketan P. Soni

Hat tip to @cjfoxlaw:

“Being a lawyer is really just having everyone mad at you, all the time. Opposing party. Opposing counsel. Your client. Your client’s mom. The judge. Clerks. Random people on the street asking for legal advice that is out of your practice area. Your dog. Basically everyone.”

If that’s what the practice of law has become, we can at least be thankful for the awesome members of our active section!

Message from the Chair

By Afi Johnson-Parris

Dear Members of the Family Law Section,

I am excited to begin a new bar year with you. It is an honor and privilege to serve as your Chair this year. The entire Family Law Section Leadership, listed here, is dedicated to making sure you receive value for your membership in the way of quality CLE, social activities, and learning opportunities to make your practice better.

Please make the most of your membership in our section. You can do this by attending not just our social events and CLE, but by joining a committee. Simply go to our Section webpage and complete a committee sign-up form. You’ll receive reminders and invitations to section events via email to section members only. You can also benefit from discounts especially for section members to CLEs, practice resources, and educational materials.  Put the Power of Association (  to work for you with the new membership structure. Renew your Association membership and select Family Law as your section of choice.

I’m happy to speak to you if you have questions, comments, or ideas for the Section. Please feel free to contact me.

Afi S. Johnson-Parris
Chair, NCBA Family Law Section 2019-2020

NC COA: Termination of Parental Rights, In re T.H. and M.H.

By Jessica B. Heffner

Termination of Parental Rights, NC COA18-926, In re T.H. & M.H., June 18, 2019, Rowan County 

Respondents appealed an order terminating their parental rights due to issues of ongoing substance abuse, mental health, and inadequate care and supervision of their children.  The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion as to the termination of either parent’s rights.

In February 2016, DSS filed a petition alleging Respondent’s children were neglected and dependent.  A week later, Respondents entered into an Out of Home Family Services Agreement requiring them to take measures to secure proper housing, employment, mental heath treatment, substance abuse treatment, and to participate in a parenting course and resolve all pending legal/criminal issues.  In March 2016, the court entered a consent order adjudicated the children neglected and dependent; the order required Respondents to comply with their case plan.  Over the next several months, however, the Respondents were in and out of jail.  In June 2017, the trial court entered a permanency planning order which changed the primary permanent plan for the children to adoption with reunification as the secondary plan, finding that Respondents had not made “any progress” on their case plans.  The next month, in July 2017, DSS filed a petition to terminate Respondents’ parental rights, which was granted.  Respondents appealed.

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NC COA: Termination of Parental Rights, In re D.A.Y.

By Jessica B. Heffner

Termination of Parental Rights, COA18-1226, In re D.A.Y., June 18, 2019, Stanly County

Petitioner-Father, a resident of Stanly County, North Carolina, filed a termination of parental rights action in Stanly County against Respondent-Mother, a resident of Ventura County, California.  Petitioner alleged the parties’ child lived with him in Stanly County, pursuant to a California custody order, such that North Carolina is the “home state” of the child.  Petition further alleged that said California custody order terminated California’s ongoing jurisdiction by its own terms.  Petitioner alleged that though Respondent is currently a California resident (as she was when the California custody order was entered), she temporarily relocated to Nevada which also terminated California’s jurisdiction.  The trial court in Stanly County entered an order which terminated Respondent’s parental rights.  Respondent appealed arguing the North Carolina court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to enter its order.  The Court of Appeals agreed.

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NC COA: Sfreddo v. Hicks

By Tony Kehoe

Requirements for Notary Certificate and Acknowledgment; Timeliness of Appeal of Summary Judgment Order from Converted Motion to Dismiss Hearing, COA18-1010, Sfreddo v. Hicks, June 18, 2019, Wake County

Wife filed an action against Husband for breach of contract (a separation agreement).   Husband moved to dismiss alleging the separation agreement was void because it was not properly acknowledged under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 52-10.1. Husband specifically alleged the wording of the notary certificate did not have the proper language regarding the notary’s knowledge of the identity of the principal nor did it indicate that the notary acknowledged the signature was that of the principal.

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NC COA: Entry of Default & Specific Performance, Jones v. Jones

By Kristin Hampson

Entry of Default, Specific Performance, COA18-478, Jones v. Jones, Feb. 5, 2019, Lee County

This matter was originally appealed in action COA14-507.  After certifying this Court’s decision to the district court, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default, and a default judgment was entered on the same day.  Defendant filed a motion to set aside entry of default more than one month later.  The trial court ultimately denied Defendant’s motion to set aside entry of default.  Defendant appeals from the trial court’s order denying his motion to set aside entry of default and ordering specific performance.  Because the trial court’s findings were supported by the record, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of default and order for specific performance.

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NC COA: Equitable Distribution, Nordman v. Nordman

By Evonne Hopkins

Equitable Distribution, COA18-405, Feb. 19, 2019, Nordman v. Nordman, Iredell County

Equitable distribution orders and contempt orders are both immediately appealable.

Equitable distribution order remanded for further findings of fact on all factors within Section 50-20(c) supported by the evidence at trial.  The trial court must make findings of fact concerning each distributional factor for which evidence is presented and determine in its discretion whether an unequal distribution is equitable.

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NC COA: Child Custody/UCCJEA, Walz v. Walz

By Evonne Hopkins

Child custody, subject matter jurisdiction/UCCJEA, COA18-240, Feb. 19, 2019, Walz v. Walz, Carteret County

Holding: The trial court erred in finding that North Carolina was the “home state” of the two minor children and in exercising emergency jurisdiction.  The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to make the initial child-custody determination.

In May 2015, Husband and Wife enter into a Separation Agreement (“SAPS”), which gave Wife primary custody of the minor children.  The SAPS included a provision that NC would have jurisdiction over matters contained in the agreement.  In June/July 2015, Wife moved to Arizona with the minor children.

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The Value of Membership: Why Should You Join the Family Law Section of the NCBA?

By Lisa LeFante

I have been a member of the NCBA Family Law Section for nearly 22 years.  If you asked me why I joined back in 1997, I probably would have said, “because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and Marc Sokol is paying for it.”  If you ask me today, my answer is still the same (well, partially, Marc is no longer paying for it, although I wouldn’t mind if he did) because that’s what you are supposed to do.  The real question is why is joining the Section something we are “supposed to do?”

I am a member of a Section that is some 1,000+ lawyers strong, most of whom dedicate their careers to family law.  From this Section, I learn not only about developments in family law, but also about camaraderie, professionalism, and public service.  I learn how to be a better lawyer, and perhaps in turn, a better person.

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