In Baumann-Chacon v. Baumann, 710 S.E.2d 431 (N.C. Ct. App. 2011), the wife who was not separated from her husband and had not yet filed a complaint for divorce filed an action for temporary custody, alimony, and child support. The District court dismissed the case because of a lack of jurisdiction. The wife appealed, on a matter of first impression the Court held that trial courts have the authority to enter orders related to child custody and child support before a husband and wife have separated.
The Baumann court distinguished its decision from the holding in Harper v. Harper, 50 N.C. App. 394, 273 S.E.2d 731 (1981). In Harper, the Court held that a wife’s claim for custody and child support should have been dismissed because the claim was brought before separation of the parties.
Baumann provides little guidance on the trial judges’ authority to enter pre-separation child custody and child support orders. The Court has basically left it in trial judges discretion to make determinations about the propriety of entering pre-separation orders on a case-by-case basis.