Burton Craige spoke at a North Carolina Bar Association CLE on Sex, Family, and the Constitution, which was put together by the NCBA Constitutional Rights & Responsibilities and Family Law Sections. He spoke on the topic of child custody by non-biological parents. He presented a paper, written along with Narendra Ghosh, entitled Custody Disputes Between Natural Parents and Third Parties: Mason, Estroff, and Heatzig and Beyond. Burton was one the of the lawyers for the plaintiff in Heatzig.
Summary: With increasing frequency, state courts have been confronted with custody disputes between the biological mother and a former same-sex partner who shared the responsibility of raising the child. In 2008, the North Carolina appellate courts addressed the issue for the first time. In a trio of unanimous decisions – Mason v. Dwinnell, Estroff v. Chatterjee, and Heatzig v. MacLean – the North Carolina Court of Appeals defined the circumstances in which the former partner would be entitled to a custody determination based on the best interest of the child. Because the opinions apply the law to three sets of facts, they provide especially helpful guidance to attorneys and the trial courts.