In a case involving the Department of Children and Families, a maternal grandmother was permitted to move with her granddaughter from Connecticut to North Carolina after successfully intervening in the matter. By way of background, the plaintiff and defendant were the parents of a thirteen year old child. Unfortunately, their relationship was filled with conflict which resulted in DCF involvement. At one point, the Department filed a neglect petition against both parents upon allegations of domestic violence, drug use, abandonment and lack of cooperation with authorities. Pursuant to a Probate Court order, the maternal grandmother was awarded temporary custody, and in a subsequent Family Court action, she was awarded sole legal and physical custody.
The grandmother later filed a motion for modification requesting that the court allow her to relocate to North Carolina with the child. In reviewing the circumstances, the court noted that the father presented as smart and well-spoken, and that it appeared he wanted his daughter to be a part of his life. However, it also noted that, historically, his visitation was sporadic and there were long periods of time when he did not see his daughter at all. The Court also found that the father blamed everyone else for his absence, and although he objected to the maternal grandmother’s motion to relocate, he failed to provide any viable proposal to support the child himself. The mother did not offer herself as an option for custody; rather she expressed agreement with the proposed relocation.
The Court found that the grandmother demonstrated a substantial change in the circumstances warranting a modification of the then current custody arrangement, namely that she was retiring to North Carolina. The Court further found that she and her husband rented an affordable apartment, that she had family support in the proposed area, that she researched the schools and was satisfied they would give the child a good education, and that as she was not employed, she would be at home full time to care for the child. The Court also found that the grandmother was willing to provide transportation so the child could see her father. The family relations investigator and guardian ad litem both supported the move, testifying that it would be in the child’s best interests. Based on the foregoing, the Court ultimately found that a change in circumstances existed, that the relocation was for a legitimate purpose, that the proposed location in North Carolina was reasonable in light of that purpose and that the relocation was in the best interests of the minor child.
By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq
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