If you have a family in Monroe Union County, particularly minor children, North Carolina’s Department of Social Services (DSS) can become involved in your life. This may be due to an anonymous tip regarding your home, a referral from the school or daycare your child may be attending, or even from local law enforcement. If the North Carolina’s DSS is notified about your family, then the agency will begin an investigation to determine whether or not there is a reason to believe your minor child is being abused, neglected, or is considered dependent. In the context of a case involving a juvenile the terms “abuse”, “neglect”, and “dependent” all have specific definitions under the law as they are defined by statute.

Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency

Some examples of circumstances that may fall under the definition of “abuse”, “neglect”, and “dependent” include inappropriate discipline of a child, lack of supervision of a child, lack of proper care for a child, lack of medical care for a child, or the act of placing a child in an environment that puts him or her at a substantial risk of harm. It is common for North Carolina’s DSS to cite several issues to support the notion that a minor child’s home environment is dangerous for him or her. These allegations may include domestic violence, a parent’s instability, or substance abuse.

Should North Carolina’s DSS come to the conclusion that your minor child is being abused, neglected, or is a dependent the agency will file a petition with the court. In its petition, DSS will ask the court to adjudicate that your minor child is abused, neglected or dependent. DSS will petition the court to put formal measures in place to protect the child. If you are a parent who is facing DSS investigation, you may feel that you are already on the losing end because DSS had the opportunity to investigate and gather evidence against you while you were unrepresented by legal counsel. While this may be true, do not lose hope. It is vital that you contact an experienced Monroe Union County family law attorney right away so you can learn about your rights and obligations under the law. The hope is that a skilled family law attorney can help you avoid the DSS’s filing a petition so that an adjudication hearing is not necessary. If you did not have the opportunity to speak with an attorney and try to avoid a petition, and find yourself facing an adjudication hearing, now is the time to speak with a family law attorney in Monroe Union County. A skilled North Carolina family law attorney can discuss the allegations against you and explain the statutory definitions of abuse, neglect and dependency under state law.

What is an Adjudication Hearing?

An adjudication hearing is the process by which a family law judge listens to evidence and testimony from DSS and both parents of the child in a North Carolina court room. After reviewing the evidence, the judge will then determine whether the allegations made by DSS in the petition are true. In other words, an adjudication hearing is a trial during which the rules of evidence apply. It is critical to have an attorney at this stage of the process. This is because allegations made by DSS in the petition may relate to an ongoing criminal investigation or criminal charge against the parents.

It is important to know that a parent or caretaker has the right to counsel and will be appointed a family law attorney to represent you if you are unable to afford one in North Carolina. Of note, DSS is prohibited from presenting evidence that is outside of the petition to the court. DSS bears the burden of proving the allegations against the parent(s) are true, and the standard is clear and convincing evidence. As both a parent and a defendant in a North Carolina adjudication hearing, it is critical to understand how certain evidence and testimony in your case can affect further criminal proceedings that may be brought against you. At the same time, as a parent it is also critical to understand how the adjudication of one child may affect any other minor children that are living in your home.

An adjudication hearing must occur within 60 days of the date DSS files the petition with the court. If the judge presiding over your North Carolina adjudication hearing finds the allegations brought forth by DSS to be true, he or she will address both parents as well as the child’s need in a dispositional hearing. If the child is adjudicated by the court, DSS will continue to be involved in the life of the child and the parents. However, if the judge finds the allegations put forth by DSS, he or she will dismiss the petition and will not take any further action on your matter.

Family Law Help in Monroe Union County

The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are ready to handle the most challenging adjudication cases with North Carolina’s DSS. We are experienced professionals who care about what happens to you and your child. Call (704) 370-2828 today to schedule your initial case evaluation.