In re J.M., 273 N.C. App. 280 (2020)

Remanded in part
  • Facts: After the adjudicatory hearing where the court rendered a decision that the children were neglected and dependent, respondent mother requested that her attorney be released. The court granted her request but appointed standby counsel. At subsequent hearings, mother represented herself with standby counsel present. The court granted standby counsel’s motion to withdraw for health reasons and appointed a new standby counsel, which mom later asked to be appointed to represent her. At a permanency planning hearing, respondent mother stated she did not want her appointed counsel to represent her. After some questioning, the court granted mother’s request but kept the attorney as standby counsel. At that permanency planning hearing, the court ordered guardianship to the maternal grandmother with visitation to mother. The order authorized the guardian to change the conditions or duration of visits if the parent’s conduct would cause emotional distress or harm to the children. Mother appeals challenging that she did not waive counsel and the court improperly delegated its authority regarding visitation to the guardian.
  • Waiver of counsel is permitted under G.S. 7B-602(a1). Although respondent mother initially stated she was not sure if she wanted assistance from an attorney at the permanency planning hearing, after a series of questions by the court, she answered that she wanted to proceed without attorney representation. This was a waiver of counsel and not a request for new counsel. Although the court’s inquiry of mother was adequate to determine if the waiver was knowing and voluntary, the order does not reflect the knowing and voluntary findings required by G.S. 7B-602(a1). Remanded for the required findings and if the waiver is not knowing and voluntary, a new permanency planning hearing.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Appointment of Counsel
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