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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Neglect Adjudication – Insufficient Findings

Because the trial court’s findings of fact are copied wholesale from the DSS neglect petition, they are replete with recitations of statements, allegations, concerns, reports, and recollections of various persons, with no indication that the trial court weighed this evidence, independently determined that it was reliable, and adopted it – or any portions of it – as its own. Therefore, these recitations from the petition are not evidentiary findings that resolve conflicts in the evidence presented to the trial court, nor do they establish facts the court independently found after considering the evidence.

We vacate and remand the trial court’s order adjudicating the child L.L as neglected.

L.L.’s grandmother’s testimony actually contradicted many of the allegations attributed to her in the petition. Nevertheless, there are several valid findings of fact regarding DSS’s reaction to a report that the respondent-father was using a baseball bat to hit things in the family’s home on June 6, 2017.

But even assuming, arguendo, the valid findings of fact are supported by clear and convincing evidence, these findings are insufficient to support the trial court’s conclusion that on June 6 and 7, 2017 L.L. did not “receive proper care [or] supervision … from [respondents]; … or [that L.L. was living] in an environment injurious to [her] welfare[.]” G.S. § 7B-101(15). Therefore, the findings of fact do not support the trial court’s adjudication that L.L. is a neglected juvenile. Accordingly, we must vacate the trial court’s order and remand for entry of a revised order with appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law consistent with those findings.

Vacated and remanded.

In the Matter of L.L. (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-174-18, 10 pp.) (Linda McGee, C.J.) Appealed from McDowell County District Court (Dennis Redwing, J.) Aaron Walker for petitioner; Anné Wright and Joyce Terres for respondents; Jackson Barnes for guardian ad litem. N.C. App. Unpub.


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