Abuse and Neglect of Children
Like others across the country, Guilford County has its share of child abuse and neglect cases dealt with by experienced family law attorneys. These cases are complex and the potential outcomes are serious.
North Carolina has specific statutes regarding the abuse and neglect of children and you need to have an attorney experienced in these matters evaluate your case with you. There are many different elements that lead to a finding that a child is abused or neglected. The complexity of such a finding is a product of the statute, such that having a family law attorney to guide you through the process is critical.
Another factor that makes having an experienced attorney even more valuable is that the stakes are so high. If your case involves the Department of Social Services, you may need representation to protect your parental rights. The Department of Social Services is a powerful agency that can file a petition to strip you of your parental rights and remove your children from your home. This is known as the “death sentence” in a juvenile case, as there is no harsher punishment available in these cases than terminating parental rights. Due to the severe and permanent nature of such an action, having an experienced family law attorney is extremely important.
According to N.C.G.S. §7B-1112, “an order terminating the parental rights completely and permanently terminates all rights and obligations of the parent to the juvenile and of the juvenile to the parent arising from the parental relationship.” N.C.G.S. §7B-100 states that parental rights can be terminated “when the parents have demonstrated that they will not provide the degree of care which promotes the healthy and orderly physical and emotional well-being of the juvenile.”
An order that terminates parental rights essentially means that the parent is no longer legally considered the parent of that juvenile. All of the rights that come along with parental status are stripped away and the parent is left with absolutely no rights when it comes to that child. This is why a termination of parental rights is considered the death sentence of these types of cases.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you believe that a child is being abused or neglected, you have an affirmative duty to report the situation to the Department of Social Services.
N.C.G.S. §7B-301 states “any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found… Any person or institution who knowingly or wantonly fails to report the case of a juvenile as required…is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” In most instances, this is and can be done anonymously.
North Carolina law focuses on the best interests of the child. This can be seen both regarding the grounds for a termination of parental rights and in the legal duty to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child. At the end of the day, you will likely need help from an experienced family law attorney for the best interests of your child.