The first question asked of a reader this week is an oh-so-sad Department of Social Services question. And while it may seem far-fetched that this kind of situation can happen in a free society under the US Constitution, it is happening every day. The second question is about the $8.8 million alienation of affection verdict in Durham. Please send reader comments.
My high school child started assaulting me and was arrested in the fall of 2017 for assaulting me. Then, this summer, that child assaulted me again in front of my 23-year-old and my two younger elementary school-aged children.
The police were called. They calmed the situation down and suggested I have the high schooler emancipated the next day. However, because the high schooler thought I was going to have that child emancipated, the high schooler filed a false child protective service case.
The Department of Social Services came out to my home. The other children verified that my high school child assaulted me, as did the police report. DSS wanted me to keep the high schooler while they looked for placement. I refused, so they told me they would have to take all three children until the emergency hearing two days later. Then they would petition for the high schooler to be removed only. This is per the family meeting notes I have from the family meeting at DSS.
However, at the hearing, the petition requested all my children, claiming I exposed the younger children to domestic violence. I am the victim. I called the police. I refused to take the high schooler home to protect myself and my other children. I don’t have a lot of money and they know this, so DSS can do what they want. This is not right. I was the one assaulted. Can they do this?
First, they tell me they are going to do one thing so I would agree, and then file a petition doing something else. I have all the documentation that my high schooler’s claim is a lie, and documentation that that child has a mental illness. Up until late 2017, I was able to get that child help, but now the high schooler refuses and also told DSS the same thing – that they did not want help and would not go to counseling or take medication. Can DSS do this to me?
At the summer adjudication hearing I would not agree to the stipulation of facts, as I have all the evidence to prove it is incorrect, so they continued the hearing until later this year. I am only allowed to see my children one time a week supervised, even though I have never abused my kids. I was the one abused and tried to get help for that child. Again, they removed my younger children saying I exposed them to domestic violence, even though I was demanding help from DSS, especially after the high schooler filed a false report with DSS the next day after the police came to our home because the high schooler assaulted me.
You have a most serious problem with DSS. I do not know what county you are in. I removed the ages and sex of your children and the dates of the incidents for confidentiality. Please follow the advice of your attorney, as this is not intended to be advice on your particular case, as I do not know enough about the situation, which is quite complex.
The money issue is a problem, and because of that, I am assuming you have been appointed an attorney by the judge. You need an attorney that you trust and that is not part of the “DSS system” if possible. Because you did not do what DSS asked in keeping your high schooler while they looked for placement, you possibly have been labeled by DSS as “uncooperative.” When DSS defines you are uncooperative, the agency feels justified in violating your constitutional rights, in my opinion.
It is unclear to me if they took all three children before the petition was filed without your agreement. Under the facts as you describe them, that would be an unconstitutional act, in my opinion. There is currently a class action going on against DSS in another county for DSS taking children without a required court order.
You should not sign a false stipulation of facts.
If sounds like you are in the thicket of an “injurious” environment argument by DSS, but you did not create the injurious environment under your facts, and you were seeking to remedy it under your facts. Present all of your facts to the judge.
If you do not win adjudication of abuse and neglect of the younger children, you will be appointed an appellate attorney also. You have to present your side of this case to the judge to have a good “record” of the facts for the Court of Appeals.
In hindsight, a 50B (domestic violence protective order) might have been a better step. The high schooler has to be 16 to get a 50B against him or her. In hindsight, if appropriate, these steps might have been better and would have given you an “official record” of the facts without DSS involvement. The emancipation is not a suggestion I would have made, as it was unlikely to work without cooperation from your high schooler.
I heard on the news that there was another large alienation of affection verdict in North Carolina. Can you tell me what happened?
I think you are referring to the $8.8 million verdict in Durham recently. I was not involved in the case, but here’s what I know from research.
Keith King, the husband, sued Francisco Huizar of Texas, who was the boyfriend of King’s wife, Danielle. Danielle joined Huizar for a spa weekend during the marriage. Huizar showed up at a King family beach trip.
King called Huizar and told him to leave his wife alone.
Danielle said the marriage was unhappy. King made her dye her hair blonde and wear bikinis and high heels. He wanted threesome’s, which Danielle says she did not.
The defendant laughed throughout the trial, which could be the reason for the large damages of $2.2 million in compensatory damages and $6.6 million in punitive damages.
The judge said that this was not the way to end a marriage. A word to the wise.
Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to Ask Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 216 W. Market St., GSO, 27401. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at “Ask_Carolyn.” Post questions for consideration for this column. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.