NC COA Case Summary: In the Matter of J.M.K

By Ryan Schultz

Termination of Parental Rights, No. COA18-451, Sept. 4, 2018
In the Matter of J.M.K
Buncombe County

In a termination of parental rights hearing, a court cannot base termination from a ground that has not been pled.

Facts:  Mother and Father were in a relationship from February 2014 -September 2014. During their courtship, a daughter was conceived. While still pregnant in October 2014, Mother filed and obtained a domestic violence protective order against Father. In a chapter 50 hearing, Mother was awarded sole legal and sole physical custody of the child. No child support order was ever entered, and finding was ever made that Father was the child’s biological father. Mother filed a private termination of parental rights action, to which the trial court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights.

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Case Summaries: Custody Modification, Equitable Distribution, Change of Circumstances

NCBA Family Law Section

By Jeff RussellRebecca Poole and Jennifer Smith

Custody Modification; No Evidence Presented at Hearing

Farmer v. Farmer, No. COA16-760, (June 6, 2017)

Defendant–mother appealed from a custody modification order that set aside a prior custody modification order. Because the trial court took no evidence at the hearing and failed to make the proper analysis before modifying the prior custody order, the Court of Appeals vacated the custody modification order and remanded the case to the trial court.

There are two issues to note in this appeal: First, the Court of Appeals does not comment upon or engage in any analysis of whether the orders in the case are temporary or permanent in nature. The Court seems to assume that the orders are permanent, because it cites the two-step modification analysis for a permanent order (substantial change in circumstances/best interests). Second Judge Dillon dissents in part from the Court’s opinion concerning which of the parties’ prior custody orders should be in effect pending further hearings on the matter.

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Take a Deep Breath: Five Tips For Dealing With Highly Emotional Clients

By Kelly E. Thompson

Effectively dealing with highly emotional clients can be one of the most difficult aspects of practicing family law. Emotional clients may find it difficult to make rational decisions about their case, causing them to become entrenched in untenable positions. Emotional clients may also be challenging to communicate with effectively, sometimes hearing what they want to hear as opposed to what you are truly saying. Even worse, highly emotional clients may lash out against us or our staff when their anger actually comes from the circumstances they find themselves in, not our representation of them in those circumstances. Because representing highly emotional clients is a nearly unavoidable hazard in our profession, we must all find a way to reach past those emotions to help our clients make sound decisions about their case and future. When dealing with highly emotional clients, keep the following in mind:

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