In re A.P., ___ N.C.App. ___, 800 S.E.2d 77 (2017), reversed ___ N.C. ___, 812 S.E.2d 840 (2018)

Held: 
Vacated
  • This opinion has been reversed by In re A.P.,___ N.C. ___, 812 S.E.2d 840 (2018)
  • Facts regarding residence
    • At time of child’s birth, respondent mother resided in Cabarrus County.
    • Respondent mother agreed to safety plan with Cabarrus County DSS where child lived in a home in Rowan County while mother obtained inpatient treatment in Mecklenburg County.
    • Upon respondent mother’s discharge, she and child moved to a home in Mecklenburg County and entered into agreement with Cabarrus County DSS that she would participate in in-home family services plan. Cabarrus County transferred case to Mecklenburg County DSS.
    • Respondent’s sister discovered respondent and child living outside of agreed to home, and sister took child back to the home in Rowan County, which was approved by Mecklenburg County DSS.
    • Respondent notified Mecklenburg County DSS that she moved to South Carolina and agreed child would stay in Rowan County home.
    • Respondent returned to Mecklenburg County and was jailed and later received in-patient treatment there.
    • Respondent notified Mecklenburg County DSS she was residing in Cabarrus County.
    • The next day, the Rowan County placement provider called Mecklenburg County DSS to inform it that she could not care for child. Mecklenburg County DSS contacted Cabarrus County DSS to discuss transferring the case back, but Cabarrus County DSS could not confirm respondent mother was residing in its county.
    • 6 days later, Mecklenburg County DSS took physical custody of the child and obtained nonsecure custody from a Mecklenburg County magistrate.
    • Child was adjudicated dependent and neglected in Mecklenburg County district court.
  • Abuse, neglect, and dependency actions are “purely ‘statutory in nature and governed by Chapter 7B’”, which requires certain procedures and subjects the court to certain limitations (citing In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588, 591 (2006)). GS 7B-401.1(a) authorizes a county social services department’s director or authorized representative to file a petition alleging a juvenile’s abuse, neglect, or dependency. GS 7B-101(10) includes in its definition of director of the county department “the county in which the juvenile resides or is found.”
  • Mecklenburg County DSS did not have standing to file the juvenile petition, and standing is jurisdictional. The petition did not invoke the court’s jurisdiction as it did not allege the address or residence of respondent mother or child or the child’s physical presence in Mecklenburg County. Pursuant to GS 153A-257(a)(3), the child’s legal and physical residence was that of the person with whom she resided for four months and where she was found -- in Rowan County -- because the child was not residing with a parent or relative and was not in a foster home, hospital, mental institution, nursing home, boarding home, educational institution, confinement facility or similar institution or facility and the mother’s and father’s legal residences were unknown. At the time the petition was filed, the child was not found in Mecklenburg County. Because Mecklenburg County DSS did not have standing, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.
  • The provision of GS 7B-402(d), which provides that when a petition is filed in a county that is not the child’s residence, the petitioner must provide a copy of the petition and notices of hearing to the director of the county department where the child resides, addresses notice and not standing requirements.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Topic:
Standing
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