Earlier today, the Court of Appeals published In re K.M., an opinion that examines a trial court’s permanency planning order awarding supervised visitation between a mother and her child but temporarily suspending that visitation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more than a year, pandemic restrictions have been imposed by state and local orders as well as by decisions made by individual businesses and agencies. These restrictions have impacted some court orders of visitation between parents and children that were either in effect or entered during this period. Most often, the impact has resulted in the reduction of a parent’s time with their child – either by suspending in-person visits, converting in-person visits to electronic communication, or reducing the length or frequency of visits. Questions about the appropriateness of and/or authority to make those changes to visitation orders with or without court approval have been raised. Today’s appellate decision is the first opinion that discusses this issue. However, the basis for a temporary suspension of visits is not necessarily unique to the COVID-19 pandemic. This opinion may provide guidance for the suspension of visits generally. Continue Reading
The North Carolina Juvenile Code (G.S. Chapter 7B) establishes the substantive law for abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) and termination of parental rights (TPR) actions and also sets forth specific procedures. Although A/N/D and TPR cases are civil proceedings, many of the juvenile procedures differ from the general rules that apply to civil actions. One of the procedural differences applies to the district court’s jurisdiction in the underlying action when an appeal is pending. Continue Reading
A juvenile may be involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. These youth are sometimes referred to as “dual jurisdiction” or “crossover youth.” Two of the ways a juvenile in North Carolina may be involved with both systems is when the juvenile is the subject of a delinquency action, and
- in that action, the court orders the juvenile placed in DSS custody or guardianship (G.S. 7B-1902‒1907; -2506(1)c.; -2001); and/or
- there is also cause to suspect that the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, which if substantiated by a county child welfare agency (hereinafter “DSS”) may result in a separate abuse, neglect, or dependency action that the juvenile is the subject of.
Both of these ways applied to one of the very few appellate opinions that address these dual jurisdiction youth: In re K.G., 817 S.E.2d 790 (2018). In that case, K.G. was adjudicated delinquent and placed in DSS custody through an order entered in the delinquency action. DSS then initiated a separate dependency action, which was based largely on the juvenile’s conduct and refusal to live with his parents. In that new action, K.G. was adjudicated dependent. That adjudication was appealed and reversed by the court of appeals, which held the petition failed to allege dependency and stated the juvenile’s willful acts do not determine a parent’s ability to care for their child.
So, when does delinquency result in abuse, neglect, or dependency? Continue Reading
Several years ago when I was an appellate attorney for the State, I filed a cert petition seeking appellate review of a court order granting a Rule 60(b)(6) motion to set aside an adjudication of delinquency for first degree sex offense. The court found that the allegations were proven beyond a reasonable doubt but then allowed the juvenile’s Rule 60(b) motion because the offense (fellatio) was four years old, it was not committed in a violent manner, the juvenile showed no risk of reoffending, and labeling the juvenile as a sex offender would do him more harm than good. Based on these findings, the court concluded that “extraordinary circumstances” existed and that justice required granting the juvenile’s motion. The Court of Appeals declined to review the order and still hasn’t addressed whether Rule 60(b) applies to delinquency cases.
District court judges throughout the state disagree on the answer (which I discovered during a lively debate in my first juvenile delinquency course at the School of Government). There is no clear answer, but appellate cases suggest that Rule 60(b) does apply. However, it may not authorize setting aside an adjudication order, as described above. Here’s why.