When it comes to child custody, the court has the authority and discretion to consider a wide array of factors to further the best interest of the child standard. One such factor is the physical and mental health of the parent. Impairment of one parent in a child custody dispute that stems from alcohol or substance abuse may raise a number of legitimate concerns about that person’s ability to parent.
Toni Maurie Gwynn was a 17-month angel who died July 10, 2013 in Eden, North Carolina. She was found suffocated and strapped to a car seat. Apparently, she had not had food or water for many hours.
The latest “who dun it” was resolved last week with her father Antonio Gwynn pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Continue reading →
I have been reading the horrid stories about children being left in hot cars. I also have been troubled by my next door neighbor leaving her seven-year-old son alone this summer while she goes to work. I have seen this mother lock the door when she leaves in the morning with the child apparently inside. I do think the seven-year-old has a cell phone. I don’t like this situation for the seven-year-old who just finished first grade. Is there anything I can do?
~ Danger Lurking Next Door Continue reading →
While nothing in this article should be viewed to condone the horrific acts of Christopher Lee Neal, age 42, who shot at a social services worker after children were taken from his home, the event should be a wake up call for the Department of Social Services (DSS). Apparently this Reidsville man targeted at least two social services employees that had been working on his child custody case. He shot at one of the social workers through her car window in Burlington. According to news reports, she was not injured. He was later apprehended in Myrtle Beach. Continue reading →
The name “Responsible Individuals List” may sound like an accolade to parents; however, this is a misnomer. For those unfortunate enough to find their family in the midst of an investigation of child abuse, neglect, and dependency the List is likely to be mentioned. It is important that anyone who finds themselves in this situation be aware of what the term means and the ramifications of being on this list. Continue reading →
As a parent, it is a nightmare even to imagine your child being harmed. But for some families in the Piedmont, this is a grim reality. The scenario turns even darker when there are allegations that your spouse harmed the child. This places the parent in a terrible position: trying to protect your child from harm, and to reconcile how your spouse could be responsible for the alleged conduct. The parent may not have been aware the abuse was occurring, but may still be called to testify about the facts and circumstances of the alleged abuse either in a juvenile proceeding, a custody trial or criminal proceedings. What is the innocent parent to do? The natural inclination may be to stand mute to try to hold the family together. However, this is not an option. Continue reading →
In the final installment of our twelve-part practical series for attorneys practicing in Guilford and surrounding counties, we will review the case of State v. Deanes. In our hypothetical situation from Part 1, there were multiple hearsay statements made by the children to various family members, social workers, medical practitioners and detectives. While we have covered the prime hearsay exceptions to have these statements admitted, there is always the possibility that the court will not allow the hearsay in under the already enumerated exceptions. If this happens, the best alternative is to use Hearsay Exceptions Rule 803(24) – “Other Exceptions.” The court in Deanes gives us a broad overview of “other exception where there is inherent trustworthiness” under Rule 803(24), and the proper procedure to utilize this hearsay exception. State v. Deanes, 323 N.C. 508, 374 S.E.2d 249 (1988). Continue reading →
In this installment of our series for family law practitioners in Guilford and surrounding counties, we will discuss the case of State v. Burgess. In our hypothetical scenario, the two children made statements to their grandmother about the abuse by their uncle. Although the timing and circumstances surrounding the statements were not discussed, the statements could qualify for admission under the hearsay exception of excited utterances, Rule 803(2). The case of Burgess provides very clear guidance on this hearsay exception. State v. Burgess, 639 S.E.2d 68, 181 N.C.App. 27 (2007). Continue reading →
In part 10 of our practical series for family law attorneys practicing in the Piedmont Triad, we will review the case Matter of Lucas which provides guidance on hearsay statements made to physicians regarding sexual abuse. In our scenario in part 1 of the series, the two children told their grandmother about the incident, which in turn led to the children being seen by a doctor. In the visit with the doctor, the children made statements about the abuse. One of the grounds opposing counsel may bring up is that a physician did not treat the children, but merely examined them to gather evidence for any criminal investigation stemming from the abuse allegations. The case of Matter of Lucas is directly relevant. Matter of Lucas, 380 S.E.2d 563 (N.C. App. 1989). Continue reading →
Part 9 of our continuing series for family law attorneys practicing in Guilford and surrounding counties focuses on the admission of hearsay from social workers and the Department of Social Services. When there is a case that has allegations of abuse, there will likely be intervention from the Department of Social Services at some point. As in our scenario, there usually will be an initial investigator, and at some point, the case will be assigned to another worker for follow up after the initial investigation. By the time that the case goes to hearing, there can be multiple workers who have interacted with the family and touched the case. The prospect of getting not just one, but multiple social workers with heavy caseloads in to court to testify is a daunting task to say the least. This segment will review the case of In re C.R.B. and the admission of DSS records authored by multiple social workers. In re C.R.B., 781 S.E.2d 846 (N.C. App. 2016) Continue reading →