Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed portions of the court of appeals' opinion that found error in certain portions of the trial court's order eliminating reunification as a permanent plan and ceasing further review hearings in a neglect and dependency case concerning Mother's child, holding the trial court did not err.The trial court entered the order eliminating reunification as a permanent plan only after it found that an alternate permanent plan of custody with a court-approved caretaker had been achieved and after the court had received evidence showing that the court-approved caretakers understood the legal significance of the child's placement in their home. The court of appeals vacated the order and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the court of appeals erred in determining that the trial court erred in ceasing reunification efforts and in failing to fulfill its statutory obligations concerning verification. View "In re K.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court permitting Father's court-appointed counsel to withdraw from representing Father in the case proceedings and the trial court's order ceasing efforts to reunify Father with his son (Child), holding that remand was required for additional proceedings.The Chowan County Department of Social Services (DSS) petitioned to terminate Father's parental rights to Child on multiple grounds. Father was granted the same attorney for the termination of parental rights matter as had been allowed to withdraw at an earlier hearing. Thereafter, trial court terminated Father's parental rights, concluding that all four of the alleged grounds of the termination existed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in allowing Father's counsel to withdraw from representation without proper notice evidence in the record of the attorney's intent to withdraw and without making further inquiry into the circumstances regarding the motion. View "In re L.Z.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Industrial Commission dismissing Shannon Stocks's claim for death benefits, holding that Stocks - the decedent's alleged, cohabitating fiancee - lacked a legally-recognized relationship and thus could not file a claim for death benefits.The decedent in this case died from injuries sustained in an industrial accident at Defendant. Plaintiffs - the decedent's daughter, son, estranged wife, and Stocks - all filed claims for death benefits under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. The Commission dismissed Stocks's claim for benefits, and a consent order was entered dividing the decedent's death benefits equally among the remaining plaintiffs. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff could not file a claim for death benefits because she lacked a legal relationship with the decedent sufficient to qualify as a dependent under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-39. View "West v. Hoyle's Tire & Axle, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing in part and vacating in part the trial court's adjudication of abuse, neglect, and dependency and eliminating reunification efforts with Mother.The trial court adjudicated the child an abused, neglected, and dependent juvenile and, finding that reunification with Mother would be unsuccessful, ordered that reunification efforts with Mother cease. Mother's visitation rights with the child were terminated. The court of appeals vacated the disposition and permanency planning order, holding that the trial court denied Mother a fair hearing and erred in adjudicating the child an abused, neglected, and dependent juvenile. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in adjudicating the child abused, neglected, and dependent; (2) the trial court did not err in eliminating reunification efforts with Mother; and (3) Mother's counsel provided effective assistance. View "In re L.N.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the orders of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights in her three children, holding that the trial court failed to make necessary determinations to support the adjudication of grounds for termination under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1) and (2).After a hearing, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights based on neglect and failure to show reasonable progress in correcting the conditions which led to the removal of the children from the home. On appeal, Mother argued that the trial court failed to make certain necessary determinations regarding both grounds for termination. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the judgment, holding that the trial court failed to make the necessary determinations on adjudication under sections 7B-1111(a)(1) and (2). View "In re M.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Parents' parental rights to their three children, holding that Father was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.Following four hearings, the trial court entered an order terminating Parents' parental rights to all three children, adjudicating the existence of grounds under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1)-(3), (5), and (7) and concluding that it was in the children's best interests that Parents' parental rights be terminated. Father appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that it was in the children's best interests to terminate Parents' parental rights in their children. View "In re M.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights in her two minor children, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in the proceedings below.The Henderson County Department of Social Services filed a motion to terminate Mother's parental rights in her two children based on neglect and failure to make reasonable progress. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1)-(2). After the first termination hearing was continued, Mother's counsel requested a continuance at the beginning of the hearing. The trial court denied the motion and then terminated Mother's parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mother's motion for a continuance of the termination hearing; and (2) Mother's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was without merit. View "In re A.M.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded in part a permanency planning order of the trial court eliminating reunification as a permanent plan, holding that remand was required.Father appealed from an order of the trial court ceasing reunification efforts with his two songs, the permanency planning order eliminating reunification as a permanent plan, and subsequent orders terminating his parental rights. The Supreme Court remanded the case in part, holding (1) because the permanency planning order lacked findings that addressed one of the four issues contemplated N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-906.2(d) remand was necessary for entry of additional findings; (2) Father's claim of error concerning the permanency planning order was properly resolved by remand and did not necessitate vacating or reversing the order, and therefore, it was premature for the Supreme Court to consider the trial court's orders terminating Father's parental rights. View "In re C.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her three minor children, holding that the trial court's adjudication of neglect was supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.The Robeson County Department of Social Services filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to her three children under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1)-(3). After a hearing, the trial court granted the petition and found that it was in the children's best interests that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction and did not err in determining the existence of grounds to terminate Mother's parental rights on the basis of neglect. View "In re J.D.O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating the parental rights of Parents to their minor children, holding that the arguments Parents raised on appeal were meritless.After a hearing over the span of seven dates, the trial court entered an order determining that the parental rights of both Mother and Father were subject to termination under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1) and (2). The court then concluded that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of three of the four children at issue and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interests of all four children. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "In re B.E." on Justia Law