In re J.S.C., ___ N.C. App. ___, 800 S.E.2d 126 (2017)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • There are two procedural paths for an abuse, neglect, or dependency adjudication: (1) an adjudicatory hearing and (2) adjudication by consent.
    1. An adjudicatory hearing involves a judicial process that determines the existence or nonexistence of any of the conditions alleged in the petition and requires the allegations in the petition to be proved by clear and convincing evidence. G.S. 7B-802, -805; In re K.P., ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 744 (2016).
    2. An adjudication by consent occurs in the absence of an adjudicatory hearing and requires that (i) all parties be present or represented by counsel who are present and authorized to consent, (ii) the child is represented by counsel, and (iii) the court makes sufficient findings of fact. G.S. 7B-801(b1); In re K.P., ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 744 (2016).
  • When a trial court enters a consent adjudication order based entirely on stipulated facts (which are judicial admissions and are binding on the party who agreed to the stipulation), the court does not engage in the process of fact-finding, which includes receiving and weighing evidence and assessing witness credibility. The court has no occasion to apply the clear and convincing evidence standard required under G.S. 7B-805 “Quantum of proof in an adjudicatory hearing” (emphasis supplied in opinion). It was not reversible error for court to fail to state in its consent adjudication order that the adjudicatory findings were based on the clear and convincing evidentiary standard under G.S. 7B-805 (applying to an adjudicatory hearing).
  • Note the opinion does not address the application of G.S. 7B-807(a), which provides that if the court finds from the evidence (including stipulations) that the allegations in the petition have been proved by clear and convincing evidence to so state, because the appellant did not timely raise this issue.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Adjudicatory Hearing
Topic:
Consent
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