Appeal by petitioner, Theodore A. Davis, from judgment entered by Allen (Claude W.), Judge, on 27 November 1978 in District Court, Warren County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 20 September 1979.
Hill, Judge. Judges Vaughn and Erwin concur.
"A final decree of adoption for life terminates the relationship between the natural parents and the child, and the natural parents are divested of all rights with respect to the child." (Emphasis added.) G.S. 48-23. Rhodes v. Henderson, 14 N.C. App. 404, 188 S.E.2d 565 (1972).
Hence, the position of the petitioner is no greater than that of a stranger to the child. Rhodes v. Henderson, supra.
What right does a stranger have under the provisions of G.S. 50-13.1? This statute states substantially as follows:
Any parent, relative, or other person, . . . claiming the right to custody of a minor child may institute an action or proceeding for the custody of a minor child as herein provided. (Emphasis added.)
The determining factor under North Carolina decisions as to the proper custody of minor children is not that of claim of entitlement by the parties but the welfare of the child. Mathews v. Mathews, 24 N.C. App. 551, 211 S.E.2d 513 (1975). In this case, the children are not living with the original adopting parents (the grandparents), but are living with another person, a stranger in effect. By signing consent to the adoption by the grandparents, the petitioner was rendered a stranger to the blood, but this in no way precludes his right as an "other person" to claim custody.
This is a matter for the lower court to decide based on all the evidence before the court at that time. Therefore, the judgment entered by the court below is vacated and the case is