• Legislative Changes Focus on Foster Parents

    During the 2021 Legislative session, there have been numerous and significant amendments made to the laws addressing child welfare, most of which are in G.S. Chapter 7B (the Juvenile Code) and became effective October 1st. This is my third post explaining those legislative changes. Today’s post focuses exclusively on legislative changes that relate to foster parents. The issues addressed include the consideration of foster parents for placement at nonsecure custody, their participation in permanency planning hearings, required training, and the creation of a Foster parents’ Bill of Rights.

    My earlier blog posts are here (summarizing S.L. 2021-100 (H132)) and here (summarizing S.L. 2021-132 (S693)). As the 2021 Legislative Session continues, more changes may be made, and if that happens, I will post about them as well. Continue Reading

  • New SOG Bulletin: “Ethical Dilemmas in Client Representation for DSS Attorneys in North Carolina”

    Today’s post, and the bulletin it describes, is written by my colleague, Kristi Nickodem.

    An attorney who represents a department of social services (DSS) in North Carolina faces a variety of unique ethical challenges when it comes to client representation. Who is the attorney’s client? How should the attorney report malfeasance within the agency? A number of factors make these determinations particularly challenging in North Carolina. Continue Reading

  • It’s October and Child Welfare Legislative Changes Are in Effect!

    As the 2021 Legislative Session continues, many session laws that revised the abuse, neglect, dependency and termination of parental rights (TPR) statutes in the Juvenile Code (G.S. Chapter 7B) became effective on October 1, 2021 (last Friday), unless stated otherwise.  Previously, I blogged about S.L. 2021-100, “An Act to Make Revisions to the Juvenile Code Pursuant to Recommendations by the Court Improvement Program,” which you can read here. Today’s post summarizes S.L. 2021-132 (S693), which makes additional significant amendments to the Juvenile Code.

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  • There’s a New G.S. 35A-1121 in Town

     

    John was adjudicated incompetent in a court proceeding three years ago.  The court found that John lacked the capacity and needed the assistance of a guardian. At the time of the adjudication, John did not own any assets that required management by a guardian of the estate.  Therefore, the court appointed only a guardian of the person to assist John in making decisions related to his health care, housing, and other personal matters. Last year, John was entitled to receive a stimulus payment from the government. His guardian of the person is not authorized by law to negotiate the check and use the funds on his behalf.  Prior to October 1, 2021, the guardian of the person (or some other interested person) would have to go through a multi-step process to have the court appoint a guardian of the estate who could use the funds on John’s behalf.  This process may have included multiple court hearings and modifications of the guardianship to appoint and then discharge a guardian of the estate.  In addition to taking up time, it would create expenses for John in the form of court costs, a bond, and, in some cases, attorneys’ fees. Those expenses could ultimately be more costly than the amount that John was entitled to receive from the stimulus payment.

    As of October 1st, there is an alternative path for John under the new North Carolina statute, G.S. 35A-1121. It authorizes the court to order a single protective arrangement or single transaction for the benefit of a minor or incompetent person where it is established in a proper proceeding that a basis exists for the appointment of a guardian for a minor or an incompetent person. G.S. 35A-1121(a). “Incompetent person” includes adults, emancipated minors, and minors age 17 ½ or older who are adjudicated incompetent. G.S. 35A-1202(11).  This post discusses some of the key features of G.S. 35A-1121, which was enacted as part of Session Law 2021-53. Continue Reading

  • The Impact of S.L. 2021-132 on the Confidentiality of Child Protective Services Information and Records

    This post is authored by Kristi Nickodem, an assistant professor with the School, who specializes in human services law. This post is also cross posted on our Coates Canon blog.

    As the 2021 Legislative Session continues, one new session law that addresses child welfare, S.L. 2021-132, has raised a number of questions for county department of social services (“DSS”) directors and attorneys. This new session law has many elements related to child welfare court proceedings, which my colleague Sara DePasquale will address in a separate blog post. This blog focuses solely on Section 1.(c) of S.L. 2021-132, which amends G.S. 7B-302 – a law that addresses confidentiality of child protective services (“CPS”) records. The amendment allows members of the North Carolina General Assembly to access confidential social services information and records in certain limited instances. Continue Reading

  • From 6 to 10: New Minimum Age for Juvenile Delinquency and Undisciplined Jurisdiction

    Session Law 2021-123 includes several significant changes to the law that governs juvenile delinquency cases. This post will describe one of those changes—an increase in the minimum age for delinquency and undisciplined cases. As I write this post, that age is set at 6 years old. G.S. 7B-1501(7)a., -1501(27)a. Beginning with offenses committed on or after December 1, 2021, the minimum age for most acts of delinquency and for all undisciplined behaviors will be 10 years old. S.L. 2021-123 § 5.(b). This change comes with limited exceptions that provide for delinquency jurisdiction for some offenses committed at ages 8 and 9, a new procedure for juvenile justice to work with children between the ages of 6 and 10 through a juvenile consultation process, and new law related to the role of parents in juvenile consultation matters. This post walks through each of these components. Continue Reading

  • Staycation All I Ever Wanted: Why Parent Attorneys Should Consider Requesting Stays of TPR Orders

     

    I apologize for getting that song stuck in your head. Unless you like that song, in which case enjoy.

    Scenario: You represent a respondent parent in an abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) proceeding. The permanent plan is adoption, and DSS (or your jurisdiction’s equivalent agency) filed a petition for termination of parental rights (TPR). The trial court granted the TPR. Your client intends to appeal once the written order is entered. (Note that effective July 1, 2021, appeals of TPR orders are heard by the Court of Appeals pursuant to the newly amended G.S. 7B-1001(a)(7); see S.L. 2021-18).

    A trial court can enforce a TPR order while an appeal is pending unless a stay has been entered. G.S. 7B-1003(a); G.S. 1A-1, Rule 62(d). As the trial attorney, you and your client should consider seeking a stay of the TPR order pending the appeal.

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  • Only One Bite at the Apple – and Small Claims Court Counts!

    The NC Court of Appeals recently answered a question I’ve long wondered about in Brown v. Patel, 2021-NCCOA-342 (20 July 2021). Although this lawsuit started out as a bedbug case – which is definitely on my list of interesting topics! – it ended up being about what happens when a magistrate doesn’t make a decision. Read on for the riveting details!

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  • Equitable distribution: Classification of Life Insurance Policies and Proceeds

    In Crago v. Crago, 268 NC App 154 (2019), the court of appeal rejected a request to apply the analytic approach to classify life insurance proceeds received by wife before the date of separation. The analytic approach is the classification approach adopted by the appellate court to classify personal injury settlement proceeds, see Johnson v. Johnson, 317 NC 437 (1986), and workers compensation payments, see Freeman v. Freeman, 107 NC App 644 (1992). The analytic approach classifies the proceeds according to what the payments were intended to compensate. So, to the extent a personal injury settlement replaces economic loss to the marriage, it is marital. To the extent it compensates a spouse for future lost wages or personal pain and suffering, it is separate.

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  • School Notification of Felony Delinquency Charges

    As students across North Carolina head back to school, it is a good time to review the law that governs notifying schools about juvenile delinquency cases. Prior to raise the age, notification of charges for high school students required an understanding of the requirements under both the Juvenile Code for delinquency cases and the Criminal Code for cases in which students were accused of crimes committed at ages 16 and 17. Now,  under the post-raise the age statutory structure of juvenile jurisdiction, the Juvenile Code requirements will govern nearly all school notifications.

    Here are the headlines:

    • school notification can only be made by a juvenile court counselor to the school principal and under the specific circumstances outlined in the Juvenile Code, and
    • the information disclosed must remain confidential and may only be used by the school in the limited way allowed for by the law.

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