In re A.C., 247 N.C. App. 528 (2016)

  • Facts and Timeline re:  Respondent Mother
    • 5/2012 mother agrees to kinship placement of 5-month old child with maternal aunt.
    • 8/2012 petition alleging neglect is filed (without request for nonsecure as child is still living with maternal aunt).
    • 3/2013 child is adjudicated neglected and initial disposition grants legal custody to mother and placement with maternal aunt.
    • 11/2013 first review hearing is held and court renders order of sole legal and physical custody of child to mother (order is entered on 1/24/2014). Because placement is with a parent, further 7B-906.1 hearings are waived, but the court retains jurisdiction rather then enter Ch. 50 custody order pursuant to G.S. 7B-911.
    • 11/2013-12/2014 child remains in care of maternal aunt.
    • 12/2014 mother picks up child from day care using January 2014 court order awarding her custody and refuses to return the child to the maternal aunt.
    • 1/2015 maternal aunt files a motion to intervene as a caretaker (granted),to reopen, and for custody based on a substantial change in circumstances since the January 2014 order.
    • 7/2015 court enters a review order granting maternal aunt sole legal and physical custody and schedules a permanency planning hearing for November 2015. Respondent mother appeals.
  • Modification of Custody Order
    • The Juvenile Code (G.S. 7B-1000) authorizes a modification of an order based on a change in circumstances OR the needs of the juvenile.
    • In this case, the intervenor sought a modification based on substantial change of circumstances. The burden is on the moving party to prove changes have occurred or come to light since the order sought to be modified was entered. But, a court may consider events that occurred prior to the entry of the order when considering historical facts as part of its determination of whether a change of circumstances has occurred.
    • The evidence and court’s findings supported its conclusion that there was a substantial change in circumstances that affected the child’s general welfare and best interests since the entry of the review order. The mother abdicated her parental role for 13 months after the order that granted her custody was entered. Then the mother removed the child from the only home she had known and kept her from having contact with her caregiver and other extended family members until the court ordered the mother to allow for contact through a visitation schedule. The mother’s actions adversely affected the child, who experienced behavior changes and a resulting diagnosis of an adjustment disorder. The court may consider evidence of the child’s mental health and behavior up to the time of the hearing on the motion, rather than up to the date the petition was filed.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Custody Order
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