WALLACE JOHN DIEHL, Plaintiff, v. JANE HALL DIEHL, Defendant
Filed: 6 June 2006
1. Child Support, Custody, and Visitation--joint legal custody--decision-making authority
The trial court abused its discretion in a child custody and support case by awarding the
parties joint legal custody while simultaneously granting defendant wife primary decision making
authority, and the case is remanded for further proceedings regarding the issue of joint legal custody
because: (1) the findings that the parties are currently unable to effectively communicate regarding
the needs of the minor children and regarding defendant's occasional troubles obtaining plaintiff's
consent are not alone sufficient to support an order abrogating all decision-making authority that
plaintiff would have otherwise enjoyed under the trial court's award of joint legal custody; and (2)
the trial court needs to identify specific areas in which defendant is granted decision-making
authority upon finding appropriate facts to justify the allocation.
2. Child Support, Custody, and Visitation_-stipulation on visitation--as agreed upon by
The trial court did not err by awarding plaintiff father visitation only as agreed upon by the
parties, because: (1) at the beginning of its order the trial court specifically found that plaintiff
stipulated to a physical custody arrangement with defendant mother having permanent primary
physical custody and plaintiff having visitation rights as agreed upon by the parties; and (2) contrary
to plaintiff's assertion, nothing in In re Custody of Stancil, 10 N.C. App. 545 (1971), or its progeny
suggests that parties may not stipulate to such an arrangement.
3. Child Support, Custody, and Visitation_-support--recalculation of obligation--equitable
The trial court was not required to recalculate plaintiff father's child support obligation in
light of any equitable distribution, because: (1) an equitable distribution is done via a court
proceeding and not by agreement between the parties; and (2) even assuming arguendo that the
parties' settlement agreement was an equitable distribution, a prior child support award following
an equitable distribution need only be reconsidered upon the request of a party, and no such request
4. Child Support, Custody, and Visitation_-support--average monthly gross income
The trial court did not err in a child support case by using an average of plaintiff father's
monthly gross incomes in 2001 and 2002 as a basis for finding his monthly gross income for 2003
to be $19,791.50, because: (1) plaintiff failed to preserve this issue for appellate review; (2) even if
it is presumed that plaintiff preserved this issue for review, plaintiff argues on appeal only that the
trial court erred when it found he had not presented adequate information as to his actual 2003
income and that the trial court's decision to average his 2001 and 2002 income improperly imputed
income to him; (3) given the unreliability of plaintiff's document, it cannot be concluded under the
circumstances that the trial court abused its discretion by averaging plaintiff's income from his two
prior tax returns to arrive at his 2003 income; and (4) the trial court did not impute income to
plaintiff as a result of voluntary unemployment or underemployment, but rather was merely
attempting to determine what plaintiff actually earned in 2003.
5. Child Support, Custody, and Visitation_-support obligations-_insufficient findings of
Although the trial court did not err by failing to use or refer to the North Carolina Child
Support Guidelines for determining plaintiff father's various child support obligations, it did err by
failing to provide adequate findings of fact to support its calculation of support, because: (1) the
Guidelines did not apply since the parties' combined monthly incomes in 2000, 2001, 2002, and
2003 exceeded the $20,000 monthly maximum; (2) even if the Court of Appeals adopted plaintiff's
proposed 2001 and 2003 monthly income figures, he does not contest the trial court's finding as to
defendant's monthly income, and combined, the two exceed the $20,000 monthly maximum; (3)
when the monthly maximum contemplated by the Guidelines is exceeded, the trial court is required
to order a child support based on the particular facts and circumstances of the case and not merely
to extrapolate from the Guidelines; (4) although the order contains certain historical costs associated
with the children, it includes no findings as to the individual costs and expenses the trial court
expected to be associated with each child in the future; and (5) although the trial court did make
findings regarding the parties' particular estates, earnings, conditions, and accustomed standard of
living, they were insufficient to remedy the absence of findings explaining the reasonable needs of
6. Costs--attorney fees--failure to make findings of fact
The trial court erred by declining to award defendant mother attorney fees in a child support
and custody case, and the case is remanded for entry of proper findings of fact, because the trial court
made no findings related to its denial as to whether defendant acted in good faith or whether she had
insufficient means to defray the expense of the suit.
Appeal by plaintiff and cross-appeal by defendant from order
entered 27 September 2004, nunc pro tunc 29 April 2004, by Judge
Alonzo Coleman in Orange County District Court. Heard in the Court
of Appeals 16 November 2005.
Lewis, Anderson, Phillips, Greene & Hinkle, PLLC, by Susan H.
Lewis, for plaintiff.
Burton & Ellis, PLLC, by Alyscia G. Ellis, for defendant.
Plaintiff Wallace John Diehl appeals from a child custody and
support order, arguing primarily that the trial court erred (1) by
awarding the parties joint legal custody while simultaneously
granting defendant Jane Hall Diehl "primary decision makingauthority," and (2) by making insufficient findings to justify its
child support order. Defendant Jane Hall Diehl has cross-appealed
from the trial court's denial of her request for attorneys' fees.
We hold that the trial court's ruling regarding joint legal custody
as well as its findings of fact regarding child support and
attorneys' fees are insufficient and, therefore, we remand for
The Diehls were married in 1986 and separated in 1997. During
their marriage, the couple had three children: Michael, born in
1989; Benjamin, born in 1991; and John, born in 1993. On 14 July
1998, Mr. Diehl filed a complaint for absolute divorce and joint
legal custody of the minor children. Ms. Diehl filed an answer and
counterclaim on 6 October 1998, seeking temporary and permanent
custody and support of the minor children. The couple was granted
a divorce on 21 December 1998.
Through 13 October 2000, the parties executed multiple
temporary agreements that settled all claims between them relating
to their divorce except for prospective child support and child
custody. With respect to temporary child support, the 13 October
2000 agreement required that Mr. Diehl pay $2,547.00 per month
until a final order or agreement of the parties was obtained.
Additionally, the agreement provided that any future permanent
child support order or agreement would relate back to September
2000. The issues of permanent child support and child custody were
heard by the trial court on 27 and 29 April 2004. On 27 September
2004, the court entered an order granting primary physical custody
to Ms. Diehl. With respect to legal custody, the court ordered the
The parties shall share permanent joint legal
custody of the minor children with [Ms. Diehl]
having primary decision making authority. If
a particular decision will have a substantial
financial effect on [Mr. Diehl] either party
may petition the Court to make the decision,
Regarding child support, the trial court made findings as to
each party's monthly gross income for 2000 through 2003, as well as
to the lump sum monthly amount necessary to meet the needs of the
children in each of these years. Based on these findings, the
trial court ordered Mr. Diehl to begin making permanent child
support payments in the amount of $4,500.00 per month and to pay
$66,960.00 in back child support for the period from September 2000
through April 2003. The court also ordered that the parties pay
their own costs, apparently denying Ms. Diehl's request for
attorneys' fees. Both parties timely appealed to this Court.
A. Primary Decision-Making Authority
 Mr. Diehl first argues that the trial court erred by
awarding Ms. Diehl "primary decision making authority," a concept
not formally recognized in statutes or case law, after it had
already awarded joint legal custody to both parties. The decision
of a trial court as to child custody should not be upset on appealabsent a showing that the trial court abused its discretion. Evans
, 169 N.C. App. 358, 360, 610 S.E.2d 264, 267 (2005).
Nevertheless, "the findings and conclusions of the trial court must
comport with our case law regarding child custody matters."
Cantrell v. Wishon
, 141 N.C. App. 340, 342, 540 S.E.2d 804, 806
Although not defined in the North Carolina General Statutes,
our case law employs the term "legal custody" to refer generally to
the right and responsibility to make decisions with important and
long-term implications for a child's best interest and welfare.
See Patterson v. Taylor
, 140 N.C. App. 91, 96, 535 S.E.2d 374, 378
(2000) (Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions
regarding "the child's education, health care, religious training,
and the like."); 3 Suzanne Reynolds, Lee's North Carolina Family
§ 13.2b, at 13-16 (5th ed. 2002) (Legal custody includes "the
rights and obligations associated with making major decisions
affecting the child's life."). This comports with the
understanding of legal custody that has been adopted in other
states. See, e.g.
, In re Paternity of Joe
, 486 N.E.2d 1052, 1057
(Ind. Ct. App. 1985) (noting "legal custody" provided mother with
right and responsibility to determine such things as the child's
"education, health care, and religious training" (internal
quotation marks omitted)); Taylor v. Taylor
, 306 Md. 290, 296, 508
A.2d 964, 967 (1986) ("Legal custody carries with it the right and
obligation to make long range decisions involving education,
religious training, discipline, medical care, and other matters ofmajor significance concerning the child's life and welfare."). See
, Ga. Code Ann. § 19-9-6 (2004) ("'Joint legal custody'
means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major
decisions concerning the child, including the child's education,
health care, and religious training . . . ."); Ind. Code §
31-9-2-67 (2003) ("'Joint legal custody', . . . means that the
persons awarded joint custody will share authority and
responsibility for the major decisions concerning the child's
upbringing, including the child's education, health care, and
Here, although the trial court awarded the parties joint legal
custody, the court went on to award "primary decision making
authority" on all issues to Ms. Diehl unless "a particular decision
will have a substantial financial effect on [Mr. Diehl] . . . ."
In the event of a substantial financial effect, however, the order
still does not provide Mr. Diehl with any decision-making
authority, but rather states that the parties may "petition the
Court to make the decision . . . ." Thus, the trial court
simultaneously awarded both parties joint legal custody, but
stripped Mr. Diehl of all decision-making authority beyond the
right to petition the court to make decisions that significantly
impact his finances. We conclude that this approach suggests an
award of "sole legal custody" to Ms. Diehl, as opposed to an award
of joint legal custody to the parties. See
13.2b, at 13-16 ("If one custodian has the right to make all major
decisions for the child, that person has sole 'legal custody.'"). This Court has acknowledged that the General Assembly's choice
to leave "joint legal custody" undefined implies a legislative
intent to allow a trial court "substantial latitude in fashioning
a 'joint [legal] custody' arrangement." Patterson
, 140 N.C. App.
at 96, 535 S.E.2d at 378. This grant of latitude refers to a trial
court's discretion to distribute certain decision-making authority
that would normally fall within the ambit of joint legal custody to
one party rather than another based upon the specifics of the case.
, MacLagan v. Klein
, 123 N.C. App. 557, 565, 473 S.E.2d
778, 784 (1996) (awarding parties joint legal custody, but granting
father exclusive control over child's religious upbringing),
overruled on other grounds by Pulliam v. Smith
, 348 N.C. 616, 501
S.E.2d 898 (1998).
A trial court's decision to exercise this
discretion must, however, be accompanied by sufficient findings of
fact to show that such a decision was warranted. See id.
473 S.E.2d at 784 (finding that parties had agreed to raise child
in father's Jewish faith, that the child had been so raised since
birth and derived considerable mental well-being therefrom, and
that the mother had recently begun pressuring the child to become
In the present case, the trial court found that "[t]he parties
are currently unable to effectively communicate regarding the needs
of the minor children." As Mr. Diehl did not assign error to this
finding, it is binding on appeal. Holland v. Holland
, 169 N.C.
App. 564, 569, 610 S.E.2d 231, 235 (2005). Moreover, the trial
court also found that since the parties' separation: the childrenhave resided only with Ms. Diehl, and Mr. Diehl has exercised only
sporadic visitation; Mr. Diehl has had very little participation in
the children's educational and extra-curricular activities; Ms.
Diehl has occasionally found it difficult to enroll the children in
activities or obtain services for the children when Mr. Diehl's
consent was required, as his consent is sometimes difficult to
obtain; and when John's school recommended he be evaluated to
determine whether he suffered from any learning disabilities, Mr.
Diehl refused to consent to the evaluation unless it would be
completely covered by insurance. These findings are supported by
competent evidence in the record and are, therefore, also binding
on appeal. See Evans
, 169 N.C. App. at 360, 610 S.E.2d at 267.
These findings, however, predominantly address the trial
court's reasons for awarding Ms. Diehl primary physical custody of
the children. See
§ 13.2c, at 13-16 ("[D]ecisions
exercised with physical custody involve the child's routine, not
matters with long-range consequences . . . ."). Given the trial
court's determination that "[b]oth parties are fit and proper to
have joint legal custody of the minor children," only the court's
findings regarding the parties' difficulty communicating and Ms.
Diehl's occasional troubles obtaining Mr. Diehl's consent could be
construed to indicate that anything other than traditional joint
legal custody would be appropriate. We cannot see, however, how
those findings alone are sufficient to support an order abrogating
all decision-making authority that Mr. Diehl would have otherwise
enjoyed under the trial court's award of joint legal custody. We,therefore, reverse the trial court's ruling awarding primary
decision-making authority to Ms. Diehl and remand for further
proceedings regarding the issue of joint legal custody. On remand,
the trial court may identify specific areas in which Ms. Diehl is
granted decision-making authority upon finding appropriate facts to
justify the allocation.
 Mr. Diehl next argues that the trial court's order
awarding him visitation only "as agreed upon by the parties" is at
odds with this Court's decision in In re Custody of Stancil
N.C. App. 545, 551-52, 179 S.E.2d 844, 849 (1971) ("The court
should not assign the granting of . . . visitation to the
discretion of the party awarded custody of the child."). At the
beginning of its order, however, the trial court specifically found
that "[Mr. Diehl] stipulated to a physical custody arrangement with
[Ms. Diehl] having permanent primary physical custody and [Mr.
Diehl] having visitation rights as agreed upon by the parties
. ." (Emphasis added.)
Mr. Diehl has not assigned error to this finding, and it is,
therefore, binding on appeal. Holland
, 169 N.C. App. at 569, 610
S.E.2d at 235. As nothing in Stancil
or its progeny suggests that
parties may not stipulate to such an arrangement, see, e.g.
, 70 N.C. App. 690, 694, 320 S.E.2d 921, 924 (1984)
(concluding trial court's order that "visitation . . . occur at
times and places agreeable to, and under such terms and conditions
as set by, the [persons with custody]" was improper partly becauseparties had not stipulated to such an order), the trial court's
finding adequately supports its conclusion on this issue, and this
assignment of error is, therefore, overruled.
A. Mr. Diehl's 2000 Child Support Obligation
 With respect to child support, Mr. Diehl first argues that
once the parties entered into their 13 October 2000 settlement
agreement, the trial court was obligated to make its child support
determinations for October through December 2000 based upon Mr.
Diehl's income in light of the "equitable distribution" effectuated
by the agreement. See
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20(f) (2005) ("After
the determination of an equitable distribution, the court, upon
request of either party, shall consider whether an order for
alimony or child support should be modified or vacated . . . .");
Capps v. Capps
, 69 N.C. App. 755, 757, 318 S.E.2d 346, 348 (1984)
("[I]f alimony or child support has already been awarded, the
awards must be reconsidered upon request after the marital property
has been equitably distributed."). This argument presumes the 13
October 2000 settlement agreement was in fact an "equitable
distribution," which it was not.
An equitable distribution is done via a court proceeding and
not by agreement between the parties. See Brenenstuhl v.
, 169 N.C. App. 433, 435, 610 S.E.2d 301, 303 (2005)("By executing a written separation agreement, married parties
forego their statutory rights to equitable distribution and decide
between themselves how to divide their marital estate following
divorce."); Blount v. Blount
, 72 N.C. App. 193, 195, 323 S.E.2d
738, 740 (1984) (stating that when a prior separation agreement
fully disposes of the spouses' property rights arising out of the
marriage, it acts as a bar to equitable distribution), disc. review
, 313 N.C. 506, 329 S.E.2d 389 (1985). See also
Dictionary 578 (8th ed. 2004) (defining "equitable distribution" as
"[t]he division of marital property by a court
in a divorce
proceeding" (emphasis added)).
Even assuming arguendo
that the parties' settlement agreement
was an equitable distribution, a prior child support award,
following an equitable distribution, need only be reconsidered
"upon [the] request" of a party. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20(f);
, 69 N.C. App. at 757, 318 S.E.2d at 348. Mr. Diehl made no
such request, and, consequently, the trial court was not required
to recalculate Mr. Diehl's child support obligation in light of any
B. Mr. Diehl's 2003 Income
 Mr. Diehl next challenges the trial court's use of an
average of his monthly gross incomes in 2001 and 2002 as a basis
for finding his monthly gross income for 2003 to be $19,791.50.
Mr. Diehl's own proposed findings of fact, however, urged the trial
court to find that his 2003 monthly income, based upon his 2002 tax
return, was $22,435.00. In other words, the trial court's findingas to Mr. Diehl's 2003 monthly income was nearly $3,000.00 less
than Mr. Diehl's own proposed findings of fact had suggested. We
conclude, therefore, that Mr. Diehl has failed to preserve this
issue for appellate review. N.C.R. App. P. 10(b)(1) ("In order to
preserve a question for appellate review, a party must have
presented to the trial court a timely request, objection or motion,
stating the specific grounds for the ruling the party desired the
court to make if the specific grounds were not apparent from the
context."). See also In re Petition of Utils., Inc.
, 147 N.C. App.
182, 194, 555 S.E.2d 333, 341-42 (2001) (concluding North Carolina
Utilities Commission did not err in ordering reduction in utility
rates petitioner could charge when petitioner acquiesced to such a
reduction in its proposed order).
Even if we assume this issue had been preserved for our
review, Mr. Diehl argues on appeal only that the trial court erred
when it found Mr. Diehl had not presented adequate information as
to his actual 2003 income and that the trial court's decision to
average his 2001 and 2002 income improperly imputed income to him.
As to Mr. Diehl's evidence of his 2003 income, the trial court
found that Mr. Diehl's tax returns were "highly unreliable" and
that Mr. Diehl had not "present[ed] adequate information as to his
2003 income." These findings are supported by competent evidence
indicating that several deductions on the 2003 return were
improper, and that the return contained at least one incident of
"major incorrect reporting." Indeed, Mr. Diehl's proposed order
even states that "[n]either party presented sufficient incomeinformation about the parties' respective 2003 tax returns, as the
2003 tax returns were not completed by either party until
immediately before the trial." Thus, the trial court's findings
with respect to the reliability of Mr. Diehl's evidence of his 2003
income are supported by competent evidence, and, consequently, are
binding on appeal. Evans
, 169 N.C. App. at 360, 610 S.E.2d at 267.
Given the unreliability of Mr. Diehl's documentation, we cannot
conclude under the circumstances of this case that the trial court
abused its discretion by averaging Mr. Diehl's income from his two
prior tax returns to arrive at his 2003 income.
We disagree with Mr. Diehl's characterization of this
methodology as "imputation" of income. Imputation is used to
determine a parent's child support obligation based upon earning
capacity, rather than actual income, when the parent is
"voluntarily unemployed or underemployed . . ., and the court finds
that the parent's voluntary unemployment or underemployment is the
result of . . . bad faith or deliberate suppression of income to
avoid or minimize his or her child support obligation." N.C. Child
Support Guidelines, 2006 Ann. R. N.C. at 49. In the present case,
the trial court did not impute income to Mr. Diehl as a result of
voluntary unemployment or underemployment, but rather was merely
attempting to determine what Mr. Diehl actually earned in 2003.
Consequently, the law of imputation is inapplicable. See Burnett
, 128 N.C. App. 174, 177, 493 S.E.2d 804, 806 (1997)
(finding no imputation of income where trial judge computed
defendant's actual gross income to be $77,000.00 per year, despitedefendant's reported income of $29,000.00 per year, based on
defendant's other sources of funds). This assignment of error is
C. Sufficiency of Findings of Fact
 Finally, Mr. Diehl argues that the trial court should have
either used or referred to the North Carolina Child Support
Guidelines (the "Guidelines") for determining his various child
support obligations and that, in any event, the trial court's
findings of fact were inadequate to support its calculation of
support. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.4(c) (2005), trial courts
"shall determine the amount of child support payments by applying
the presumptive [G]uidelines . . . ." These Guidelines, however,
state that "[i]n cases in which the parents' combined adjusted
gross income is more than $20,000 per month ($240,000 per year),
the supporting parent's basic child support obligation cannot be
determined by using the child support schedule [contained in these
Guidelines]." N.C. Child Support Guidelines, 2006 Ann. R. N.C. at
The trial court in this case concluded that the Guidelines did
not apply because it found the parties' combined monthly incomes in
2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 exceeded the $20,000.00 monthly maximum.
On appeal, however, Mr. Diehl argues that in both 2001 and 2003,
the parties' combined gross income was below $20,000.00 per month.
As to the applicability of the Guidelines in 2001, Mr. Diehl's
arguments focus solely on his own income and not on the combined
income of the parties, as required by the Guidelines. Even if weadopt Mr. Diehl's proposed 2001 monthly income figure of
$14,687.00, he does not contest the trial court's finding that Ms.
Diehl's monthly income in 2001 was $6,124.00. When combined, the
two amount to $20,811.00, which exceeds the $20,000.00 monthly
maximum contemplated by the Guidelines. Regarding the
applicability of the Guidelines in 2003, we have already upheld the
trial court's finding that Mr. Diehl's monthly income in 2003 was
$19,791.50. As Mr. Diehl does not contest the trial court's
finding that Ms. Diehl's monthly income in 2003 was $5,355.00, this
brings the parties' combined monthly income in 2003 to $25,146.50,
a figure well in excess of the Guidelines' $20,000.00 monthly
Mr. Diehl alternatively argues that even if the parties'
combined incomes did exceed the amount covered by the Guidelines,
the Guidelines should still have been considered. According to Mr.
Diehl, the trial court was required to "mathematically
extrapolat[e]" Mr. Diehl's child support obligations from the
amounts provided for in the Guidelines. The Guidelines provide to
the contrary, stating that "[i]n cases in which the parents'
combined income is above $20,000 per month, the court should on a
case by case basis, consider the reasonable needs of the child(ren)
and the relative ability of each parent to provide support
Child Support Guidelines, 2006 Ann. R. N.C. at 48 (emphasis added).
To accept Mr. Diehl's position would render the Guidelines binding
even when, by their terms, they are not. Moreover, our case law is explicit, in accordance with the
Guidelines, that when the monthly maximum contemplated by the
Guidelines is exceeded, the trial court is required to order a
child support award based on the particular facts and circumstances
of the case and not merely to extrapolate from the Guidelines.
, Meehan v. Lawrance
, 166 N.C. App. 369, 383-84, 602
S.E.2d 21, 30 (2004) ("The Guidelines are inapplicable [when the
combined monthly adjusted gross income of the parties exceeds
$20,000.00] . . . and the trial court [i]s required to make a
case-by-case determination."). Consequently, we hold that the
trial court was not bound by the Guidelines in determining Mr.
Diehl's child support obligations.
Regarding the adequacy of the trial court's findings of fact
as to the child support actually ordered, this Court stated in
"[A]n order for child support must be based
upon the interplay of the trial court's
conclusions of law as to (1) the amount of
support necessary to 'meet the reasonable
needs of the child' and (2) the relative
ability of the parties to provide that amount.
These conclusions must themselves be based
upon factual findings
specific enough to
indicate to the appellate court that the judge
below took 'due regard' of the particular
'estates, earnings, conditions, [and]
accustomed standard of living' of both the
child and the parents. It is a question of
fairness and justice to all concerned."
at 383, 602 S.E.2d at 30 (quoting Coble v. Coble
, 300 N.C. 708,
712, 268 S.E.2d 185, 189 (1980)) (alteration in original); see also
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.4(c) ("Payments ordered for the support of
a minor child shall be in such amount as to meet the reasonableneeds of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having
due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed
standard of living of the child and the parties . . . and other
facts of the particular case.").
The only findings in this case regarding the reasonable needs
of the children simply state, without any itemization, a lump sum
amount for the reasonable needs of the children in 2000, 2001,
2002, and 2003. They give no indication of what methodology or
facts the trial court considered to determine what was necessary
"to meet the reasonable needs of the child[ren] for [their] health,
education, and maintenance . . . ." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.4(c).
Ms. Diehl admits that "[c]learly, the trial court did not use all
of the expenses listed" in the parties' financial affidavits.
Without more explanation, it is impossible to determine on appeal
where the figures used by the trial court came from at all.
Moreover, although the order does contain certain historical costs
associated with the children, it includes no findings as to the
individual costs and expenses the trial court expects to be
associated with each child in the future. While the trial court
did make findings regarding the parties' particular "'estates,
earnings, conditions, [and] accustomed standard of living,'"
, 166 N.C. App. at 383, 602 S.E.2d at 30 (quoting Coble
N.C. at 712, 268 S.E.2d at 189), we conclude these are insufficient
to remedy the absence of findings explaining the reasonable needs
of the children. Accordingly, we remand for further findings of
fact regarding the amount of child support awarded.
 In her cross-appeal, Ms. Diehl argues that the trial court
erred in declining to award her attorneys' fees. An award of
attorneys' fees in actions for custody and support of minor
children requires the trial court to find (1) that the party
seeking the award of fees was acting in good faith, and (2) the
party has insufficient means to defray the expense of the suit.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.6 (2005); Burr v. Burr
, 153 N.C. App. 504,
506, 570 S.E.2d 222, 224 (2002).
(See footnote 1)
"Where an award of attorney's fees is prayed for, but denied,
the trial court must provide adequate findings of fact for this
Court to review its decision." Gowing v. Gowing
, 111 N.C. App.
613, 620, 432 S.E.2d 911, 915 (1993). Although the trial court
denied Ms. Diehl's request for attorneys' fees, it made no findings
relating to that denial, such as whether Ms. Diehl acted in good
faith or whether she had insufficient means to defray the expense
of the suit. Consequently, we must remand for entry of proper
factual findings to support the trial court's decision regarding
Ms. Diehl's request for attorneys' fees. Id.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part.
Judges HUNTER and McCULLOUGH concur.