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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Neglect Adjudication – Previous Cases

In re J.A.M. (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-416-16, 10 pp.) (John Tyson, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court (Louis Trosch, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Even though the infant’s parents had previously been involved in (separate) domestic violence situations, and even though the respondent-mother failed to ask the father about an alleged assault on his sister, there was no evidence that the infant’s current home environment was unsuitable.

We reverse the adjudication of the infant as neglected.

The trial court said no evidence had been presented that the parents had remedied the issues that caused prior injurious environments for their respective older children. Nevertheless, the burden of proof rests upon the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Youth and Family Services Division (YFS) to prove its allegations by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. The absence of evidence cannot support usurpation of parental rights. YFS must introduce relevant clear, cogent, and convincing evidence supporting any allegation of neglect, or any other dereliction of parental responsibility, which it failed to do. Additionally, the trial court’s findings do not show the infant suffered from or is at a substantial risk to suffer from any physical, mental, or emotional impairment as a consequence of living in respondent’s home.


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