In re N.L.M., 283 N.C. App. 356 (2022)

  • Facts: This case involves 4 children; one of whom was adjudicated abused and neglected, the other 3 neglected. The child who was abused was underweight and severely malnourished requiring hospitalization, had burn marks and scars on her body, and was reported to be left alone for hours on the toilet and limited to remaining in her room. The other children witnessed the mistreatment of their sibling. Domestic violence and illegal substance use occurred in the home. Pending the adjudication, the parents visitations were suspended. At the initial disposition, the court continued the children’s custody with DSS, placement with a relative, and no visits. Mother appeals arguing DSS failed to provide reasonable efforts and both parents appeal the visitation order.
  • Visitation: G.S. 7B-905.1 requires the court to address visitation when a juvenile’s placement continues. The court may order no visitation when it finds the parent has forfeited that right or it is in the child’s best interests. Both parents had pending criminal charges for the same incident resulting in the abuse adjudication. The court’s reference to the superior court criminal action was not a misapprehension of law regarding whether visits could be ordered. The court found DSS and the GAL did not recommend visits and the criminal charges were pending and being pursued. Previous opinions have affirmed a denial of visits when a parent has not complied with mental health treatment, substance use treatment, or have pending criminal charges arising from the abuse of the child. Father only complied with part of his case plan and had new drug charges. The court determined visitation was not in the children’s best interests. There was no abuse of discretion.
  • Notice of right to review visitation: The court did not inform the parties of the right to review visitation but it scheduled a hearing 90 days later. This opinion recognized the General Assembly amended the statute, G.S. 7B-905.1(d), requiring notice when the court waives permanency planning hearings and retains jurisdiction (effective October 1, 2021). Although the court should have provided notice under the former statutory language, the error was harmless because of the scheduled hearing date.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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