In re A.L.T., 241 N.C. App. 443 (2015)

There is a dissent.

  • The rules of evidence apply to an adjudication hearing. It is presumed the court disregarded incompetent evidence, specifically, the child’s hearsay statements, when the court dismissed the sexual abuse allegations related to the father. At a disposition hearing, hearsay and evidence of the father’s past sexual conduct may be considered if the court finds the evidence is relevant, reliable, and necessary to determine the most appropriate disposition for the child.
  • When there are ample findings of fact based upon competent evidence to support a child’s adjudication, other findings of fact that are not supported by competent evidence and are not necessary for the adjudication does not constitute reversible error.
  • When determining if a juvenile is neglected, the court has some discretion in determining if the child is at risk for a particular type of harm when considering the child’s age and living environment. Findings that show the children lived in a home where the father punched holes in walls, hit one child in the mouth causing her lip to bleed and that the child was scared of her father, and hit another child at least once support the adjudication of neglect. There need not be findings of each parent’s fault or culpability.

Concurring Opinion

  • When a home has a violent and non-violent parent, the trial court does not need to make findings about each parent’s culpability but instead must make findings about the children’s living circumstances when determining if a child is neglected.
  • A court may consider the past history of domestic violence, even if that history occurred years before the juvenile petition was filed, when determining if a juvenile is neglected.
  • A court has discretion to consider any competent evidence at disposition even if that evidence would be excluded at adjudication because the rules of evidence apply.

Dissenting Opinion

  • A finding about the father’s history of difficulty controlling his anger without evidence that his anger caused the children to be neglected at the time of the adjudication hearing or is likely to cause future neglect is insufficient to support neglect adjudication.
  • One single act of physical discipline is not clear, cogent, and convincing evidence to support an adjudication of neglect.
  • Hearsay evidence and evidence of prior acts were not admissible and should not have been considered at disposition.
  • Without any findings regarding the mother’s culpability in the children’s neglect, the findings are insufficient to support the children’s adjudication as neglected.


Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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