in the Court of Appeals 15 February 2018.
by respondents from order entered 12 May 2017 by Judge Sarah
C. Seaton in Onslow County District Court County, No. 14 JA
Richard Penley for petitioner-appellee Onslow County
Department of Social Services.
& Audino, LLP, by Jay Anthony Audino, for
C. Boyer for respondent-appellant father.
Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, by E. Bahati Mutisya, for
guardian ad litem.
appeal from an order granting full physical and legal custody
of their child, D.A., to court-approved caretakers. We vacate
are married and both serve as active-duty marines in the
United States Marine Corps. D.A. was born in June 2014. On 9
July 2014, Respondents sought medical treatment for D.A.
after Respondent-father observed dried blood in D.A.'s
mouth and nose. D.A. was hospitalized for over two weeks
while being treated for a pulmonary hemorrhage.
sought further medical care for D.A. on 16 September 2014.
D.A. was evaluated for possible maltreatment and a blood
disorder. A skeletal survey revealed a healing rib fracture,
which was not present in an earlier skeletal survey in July
2014. After a medical evaluation, D.A. was diagnosed as
suffering from child physical abuse.
an investigation by law enforcement, Respondent-mother was
charged with felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury,
felony child abuse, and misdemeanor contributing to the
delinquency of a juvenile. Respondent-father was charged with
misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.
Respondent-mother subsequently pled guilty to misdemeanor
child abuse. Respondent-father's charge was dismissed.
September 2014, the Onslow County Department of Social
Services ("DSS") filed a juvenile petition,
alleging that D.A. was abused and neglected. DSS obtained
nonsecure custody of D.A. the same day. Following a hearing,
the trial court entered an order on 15 June 2015 adjudicating
D.A. as an abused and neglected juvenile. Respondents were
ordered to submit to mental health and psychological
evaluations, follow all resulting recommendations, and
complete parenting classes. The trial court held a permanency
planning hearing on 13 January 2016, after which the court
entered an order establishing a primary permanent plan of
reunification "with a parent, with a secondary plan of
custody with a relative or court-approved caretaker."
After a 31 August 2016 permanency planning hearing, the trial
court entered an order on 12 May 2017, which granted custody
of D.A. to his foster parents and waived further review.
Respondents timely filed notice of appeal.
contends the trial court erred by: (1) finding and concluding
that he had acted inconsistently with his constitutionally
protected status as a parent; (2) finding that returning the
juvenile to the home of his parents would be contrary to the
juvenile's best interests; (3) placing the juvenile in
the custody of the foster parents as the most reasonable
permanent plan; and, (4) ruling that it would be in the best
interests of the juvenile for him to be placed in the full
legal and physical custody of the foster parents.
contends: (1) the trial court's findings were not
supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and it
failed to make the necessary findings of fact to cease
reunification efforts with Respondent-mother and to grant
custody to D.A.'s foster parents; and, (2) the evidence
presented at the permanency planning hearing did not support
the trial court's finding that ...