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
COVID-19 has changed every court in North Carolina in one way or another. In abuse, neglect, and dependency court, the most consistent concern I have heard from parent attorneys over the last few months has to do with COVID-19 fallout affecting visits between parents and their kids.
Suspension of VisitsContinue Reading
From the North Carolina Family Court Advisory Commission:
To provide guidance to families with existing Chapter 50 custody and/or visitation orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, the Family Court Advisory Commission issues the following recommendations, which were approved by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley on April 13, 2020. The goal of these recommendations is to encourage the parties to follow their parenting plan and/or custody order as closely as possible to ensure a level of consistency and stability that is in the best interest of the child(ren). Families should work together to ensure the best interest of the child(ren) while also following the advice of their healthcare provider(s).Continue Reading
Since the initial publication of this post, the Governor signed H362. This post was amended on July 31, 2017 to reflect that change and reference the session law.
The 2017 Legislative Session created and amended various statutes affecting child welfare. Some of those changes are effective now and others will become effective at later dates. This post highlights those amendments that directly impact practice in abuse, neglect, dependency, or termination of parental rights actions. A more complete summary of the numerous legislative changes can be found on the School of Government website, here. Continue Reading
Today is my birthday (for those of you who are wondering, 46). It is my absolutely favorite day of the year. It’s not because of presents or the fact that I can easily justify why I should be the center of attention for the day (yes, I am a Leo). It’s because every year, on August 12th, I know no matter what my sister, my brother, and my mother will call me. It’s not a text; it’s not an email; it’s an actual phone call, with a real conversation. I can count on that predictability. Knowing I’m going to talk to each of them makes me really happy. My mother will call first; my sister will sing me some happy birthday jingle she made up, and my brother will wish me a happy birthday while asking how I’m going to celebrate and what else is happening in my life.
As my birthday approached this year, I found myself thinking about children in foster care and their birthdays. Is there any predictability? Is there a family visit? Are there phone calls? Is the day even acknowledged? I searched the relevant statutes, regulations, and state’s policy manuals, and I couldn’t find anything that addressed a child’s birthday (if there’s something out there that I missed, please let me know). But, the statutory, regulatory, and policy silence does not mean that the court order or the child’s case plan should also be silent. Continue Reading
Since I discussed service members in my recent post about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, it’s a good time to review North Carolina’s Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, GS 50A-350, et. seq, effective since October 1, 2013. The Act is important for military families and for judges struggling to resolve custody issues when a military parent must deploy.