In re M.M., 272 N.C. App. 55 (2020)

  • Facts: Since the juvenile’s birth in 2010, there has been an extensive litigation history involving custody of the juvenile, including a a previous DSS action in which the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and a Chapter 50 custody action with multiple orders entered. There is significant animosity and conflict between the parents regarding the child’s custody, and the child is often exposed to that and father’s poor boundaries about his anger toward mother. In 2018, DSS filed a new petition. The child was adjudicated abused due to serious emotional damage and neglected due to injurious environment. An initial dispositional order was entered that granted physical and legal custody to mother and visitation to father as well as individual and parent counseling for each parent. Respondent father appeals arguing the court abused its discretion in not allowing him to depose the social worker and that the court erred in allowing a witness to testify as an expert in psychology and child and family evaluations and in adjudicating the juvenile abused and neglected.
  • An abused juvenile is one whose a parent creates or allows to be created serious emotional damage to the juvenile. G.S. 7B-101(1)e. A juvenile’s serious emotional damage and anxiety may be causes by their parent’s actions during marital discord and custody disputes.
  • A neglected juvenile is one whose parent does not provide proper care, supervision, or discipline, or who lives in an environment injurious to their welfare. G.S. 7B-101(15). As a result, the juvenile must have some physical, mental, or emotional impairment or substantial risk of such impairment.
  • Findings, which are supported by clear and convincing evidence, include the juvenile’s living in a state of chronic emotional abuse due to her exposure to her parents’ high conflict relationship and father’s demeaning statements about mother and constant questioning of her (the juvenile). The findings support the conclusion that as a result, the juvenile suffered serious emotional damage that was evidence by her health issues and anxiety and was abused and neglected.
  • There was no violation of father’s due process rights when the first DSS juvenile adjudication order and the civil custody order were entered in evidence. The DSS petition specifically alleged that the juvenile had been in DSS custody earlier and that there was a civil custody order.


Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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