In re T.P., ___ N.C. App. ___, 803 S.E.2d 1 (2017)

Held: 
Vacated
  • Facts:  In 2015, three siblings were adjudicated abused and placed in DSS custody. In 2016, the children were reunified with their mother by an order that granted legal and physical custody to the mother, retained jurisdiction, scheduled no further review hearings, and relieved DSS, the GAL, and the parents’ attorneys. One week later, DSS received a new report of domestic violence in the mother’s home. DSS investigated the report, entered into a safety plan with the mother, and filed a motion for review based on a “change in situation.” The court held a permanency planning review hearing and ordered custody of two of the children to DSS and of one child to her father. Respondent mother appealed arguing a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and/or failure to conduct an adjudicatory hearing under G.S. 7B-401(b).
  • The jurisdictional analysis is based on G.S. 7B-401(b), which applies when four requirements are met:
    1. The court retained jurisdiction over a juvenile whose custody was granted to a parent;
    2. The court is not conducting periodic judicial reviews of the juvenile’s placement;
    3. A new report of abuse, neglect, or dependency is received by DSS after reviews have been discontinued; and
    4. The DSS director determined, based on a 7B-302 assessment, that court action was needed.

When the criteria of G.S. 7B-401(b) are satisfied, the provisions of Article 8 of the Juvenile Code apply.

  • Subject matter jurisdiction involves the court’s power to deal with the kind of action in question and is conferred by statute or the N.C. Constitution. A trial court’s general jurisdiction over the type of proceeding (e.g., a juvenile proceeding) does not confer jurisdiction over the specific action sought. There must be a controversy that is presented in the form of a proper pleading. For the court to have subject matter jurisdiction under G.S. 7B-401(b), DSS cannot file a motion for review; it must file in the existing case a verified petition alleging the newly reported and assessed abuse, neglect, or dependency. The provisions of Article 8 refer to a petition --  the adjudication determines the existence of nonexistence of conditions alleged in the petition (G.S. 7B-802) and the allegations in a petition must be proved by clear and convincing evidence (G.S. 7B-805, 7B-807). A petition ensures the parent’s due process rights are protected by requiring DSS to make specific allegations of abuse, neglect, or dependency and set out the relief sought, providing a parent with an understanding of what’s alleged and a full and fair opportunity to rebut the allegations.
  • When a new petition is filed in the existing action, the court is then required to conduct a new adjudicatory hearing under Article 8, and if the child is adjudicated to then conduct a dispositional hearing.

 

Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Topic:
7B-401(b)
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