Meet Austria. She’s one of the loves of my life. We’ve been together for more than 10 ½ years. She has been a witness to my life during that time – loving me unconditionally, making me laugh daily, going on multiple daily walks as part of my own self-care, sleeping with me when I’m sick, comforting me when times are hard, vacationing with me (I’ve driven the I-95 corridor from Miami to Portland, Maine more times than I can count so she is with me during family visits), helping me transition to North Carolina, meeting friends, sharing bags of Doritos (my weakness when writing or driving), watching me leave and waiting for me to get home in her princess and the pea pile of dog beds in front of the window, and so much more. She is a joy. She is a dog of a lifetime. She is my family.Continue Reading
Parents and Drugs: Takeaways from S.L. 2021-100 and 132, and a Recent U.S. Dept. of Justice Investigation
On October 1, 2021, two laws went into effect that pertain to parents who test positive for controlled substances while involved in juvenile abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) proceedings. Together, the laws
- dictate what happens to a parent’s court ordered visits following a positive test,
- clarify that participation in Medication-Assisted Treatment is not a violation of an order prohibiting substance use, and
- implicitly acknowledge that parents who may use drugs still have roles to play.
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.
Court of Appeals Addresses Temporary Suspension of Supervised Visits in an A/N/D Order
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
“Sometimes You Just Need a Hug” – Virtual Visits Between Parents and Their Children
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
CUSTODY AND VISITATION RECOMMENDATIONS DURING COVID-19
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
Highlights of 2017 Legislative Changes Impacting Child Welfare Practice
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
It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To; Is That the Norm for Children in Foster Care?
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
Custody When A Military Parent Deploys
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.