In re J.C., 283 N.C. App. 486 (2022)

Affirmed in Part
  • Facts: After a physical altercation between the parents, DSS filed a petition alleging neglect for a juvenile. The parents have older children that were in DSS custody, which the court relied upon in part in adjudicating the juvenile neglected. After the adjudication, the court entered a dispositional order that continued the child in DSS custody, placed the child with a relative out-of-state, and ordered supervised virtual visitation only. Respondents appeal, challenging the outline of visits, virtual visits only, and failure to notify them of the right to review. This summary focuses on the visitation order.
  • Visitation orders are reviewed for an abuse of discretion.
  • G.S. 7B-905.1(b) requires the court to establish a minimum outline of visits with duration and frequency and level of supervision. The order stated the parents shall have virtual visits very Thursday at 12 p.m. and incorporates previous orders. Although the order does not state the duration of the visit, the previous order that was explicitly incorporated sets out the frequency of one hour a week. When read together the orders comply with G.S. 7B-905.1(b).
  • G.S. 7B-906.1(a) requires the court to address visitation when custody has been removed from a parent. No visits may be ordered. Visitation is based on the juvenile’s best interests. Virtual visitation is not a replacement or substitute for visitation; instead, virtual visitation may be used to supplement visits. G.S. 50-13.2(e)(3); In re T.R.T., 255 N.C. App.567 (2013). The findings of the court showed mother did not exercise her visits and visits would terminate if 2 visits were missed and that father missed his virtual visits. With the child’s move to California, the court provided visitation that the parents would be able to reasonably comply with. By determining virtual visits were in the child’s best interests, “the trial court necessarily concluded that in-person visitation would not be in [the juvenile’s] best interests.” 283 N.C. App. at 493 (emphasis in original). The statute does not require an express finding that in-person visitation is inappropriate but instead provides that visitation be in the child’s best interests, including no visitation.
  • G.S. 7B-905.1(d) requires the court to inform that parties when permanency planning hearings are waived and the court retains jurisdiction that they have a right to file a motion to review the visitation order. Relying on In re K.W., when the court fails to do so at an initial dispositional hearing, the remedy is remand to comply, not vacate.
    • Author’s note: Effective October 1, 2021, the statute was amended to require the notice of a right to review only when there is a permanency planning order, further hearings are waived, and the court retains jurisdiction. In re K.W. was decided under prior statutory language that did not specify the circumstances under which the notice must be given.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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