In re Marriage of Flanders.
2022 COA 18. No. 21CA0356. Child Support Modification—Dependency and Neglect—Psychological Parent.
February 10, 2022
Mother and father were divorced. The court incorporated into their dissolution decree their agreement to name mother the child’s primary residential parent and sole decision-maker. The State subsequently initiated a dependency and neglect proceeding against the parents through which the juvenile court ultimately found both parents unfit and allocated parental responsibilities to the maternal grandmother. This order was certified into the dissolution case, and the court ordered father and mother to pay maternal grandmother monthly child support. Several years later, father filed a motion to modify parental responsibilities and child support. He asked the court to find that maternal grandmother was a “psychological parent” and therefore a parent who could be ordered to pay child support. Following a hearing, the district court left sole decision-making responsibility with maternal grandmother but granted father parenting time. The court denied father’s request that maternal grandmother be ordered to pay him child support.
On appeal, father argued that the district court erred by not ordering maternal grandmother to pay child support. Here, maternal grandmother voluntarily assumed parental responsibilities through a dependency and neglect proceeding, not a child custody proceeding. Maternal grandmother never sought parental rights, did not seek permanent custody of the child, and did nothing more than agree to care for the child pursuant to the juvenile court’s order. Maternal grandmother’s willingness to assume parental responsibilities caused by mother’s and father’s parenting deficits did not transform her into a permanent custodian or a psychological parent with an obligation to pay child support. Therefore, the district court did not err.
The order was affirmed.