An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA05-304


Filed: 03 January 2006


                            Lenoir County            &nb sp;                
                            No. 03 J 73

    Appeal by respondent-mother from an order entered 10 November 2004 by Judge R. Les Turner in Lenoir County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 21 September 2005.

    Griffin & Griffin by Robert W. Griffin, for Petitioner- Appellee Lenoir County Department of Social Services.

    Rebekah W. Davis, for Respondent-Appellant.

    Gerrans, Foster & Sargeant, P.A. by Jonathon L. Sargeant, for third-party-appellees.

    STEELMAN, Judge.

    D.S.W., a minor child, and his mother (respondent), were found wandering the streets and homeless in May of 2003. Respondent had a serious drug addiction. Lenoir County Department of Social Services assumed custody of the child. D.S.W. subsequently began to live with his father, but was removed from his father's custody when his father, who had prior convictions for drug related crimes, tested positive on two drug screens. D.S.W. was then placed with third-party petitioners, his paternal grandfather (grandfather) and his wife, in October of 2003. Respondent did not involve herself in the matter until her first appearance in court on 2 March 2004. D.S.W. adjusted well living with his grandfather. The child'smaternal grandmother (grandmother) was involved in the case, and requested visitation with D.S.W. The grandfather and grandmother reached an agreement on visitation, which became effective in January of 2004. Grandfather and grandmother both signed a written visitation plan prepared by Department of Social Services on 2 March 2004, and this agreement continued in effect through the time when the order from which respondent appeals was entered. In April of 2004, the permanent plan for D.S.W. was custody with relatives, and custody was transferred to grandfather and his wife on 8 June 2004. On 12 October 2004 grandfather and his wife were made guardians of the child, the visitation schedule agreed to by the parties was continued in effect, and jurisdiction for issues involving visitation was transferred from the juvenile division to the domestic division of district court. This order was entered 10 November 2004. From this order, respondent appeals.
    In her first argument, respondent contends that the trial court erred in refusing to hold a full and fair hearing or to admit evidence regarding the issues involved in the disposition order, and therefore the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. We disagree.
        The dispositional hearing may be informal and the court may consider written reports or other evidence concerning the needs of the juvenile. The juvenile and the juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian shall have an opportunity to present evidence, and they may advise the court concerning the disposition they believe to be in the best interests of the juvenile. The court may consider any evidence, including hearsay evidence as defined in G.S. 8C-1, Rule 801, that the court finds to be relevant, reliable, and necessaryto determine the needs of the juvenile and the most appropriate disposition.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-901. In the instant case, the trial court incorporated reports from Department of Social Services and the guardian ad litem into its order. The trial court properly relied on these reports in support of its findings of fact. In re Ivey, 156 N.C. App. 398, 402, 576 S.E.2d 386, 390 (2003). Further, counsel for all of the parties presented evidence and arguments. Respondent's counsel informed the trial court of respondent's progress, and argued her position in detail to the court.
    The dispositional hearing may be informal, the rules of evidence do not apply, and hearsay statements may be considered by the trial court. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-901. Department of Social Services social worker Cynthia Couch, author of the Department of Social Services report considered by the trial court, was present at the hearing. She informed the trial court that respondent was in drug treatment in prison, and that she was currently drug free. Couch was available for questioning, but respondent's attorney did not question her. The guardian ad litem supervisor, D.S.W.'s father, the child's grandfather and his wife, and the child's grandmother and her husband, were all present and available for questioning. Respondent was afforded the opportunity to present evidence, and her attorney elected not to do so. We hold that respondent received a fair and full hearing.
    Respondent further argues that the trial court erred by failing to indicate in its order that its findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Respondentdid not preserve this argument by an assignment of error in the record, and thus it is deemed abandoned. Koufman v. Koufman, 330 N.C. 93, 98, 408 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1991) . Respondent has not specifically assigned as error any findings of fact, and thus they are binding on appeal. In re Beasley, 147 N.C. App. 399, 405, 555 S.E.2d 643, 647 (2001). Finally, respondent argues that the trial court erred in refusing to continue the hearing so that she could be transferred from prison to attend. Respondent has failed to preserve this issue by assignment of error in the record and has thus abandoned it. Koufman, 330 N.C. at 98, 408 S.E.2d at 731 . This argument is dismissed.
    In her second argument, respondent contends that the trial court erred and exceeded its authority in ordering that any motions for modification of visitation should be filed in the domestic division of district court. We disagree.
    The district court has “exclusive, original jurisdiction over any case involving a juvenile who is alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-200; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(6). The district court retains jurisdiction over these matters until jurisdiction is terminated by order of the court, or the juvenile attains the age of majority or is otherwise emancipated. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 7B-201 and 7B-1000(b). The district court may not, however, terminate its jurisdiction “to conduct a review hearing if a party files a motion seeking the review.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-906.
    In the instant case, the trial court ordered:        Unless the matter is brought before the court my a motion for review by any party, the court terminates its jurisdiction in this matter, further reviews are waived, and the case is removed from the active docket of the juvenile court. Any motions for modification of visitation shall be filed in domestic court.

The juvenile division and the domestic division are both arms of the district court. The trial court thus explicitly retained jurisdiction to conduct review hearings on motion of a party pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-906 in the juvenile division and ordered that any future motions for modification of visitation be filed in the domestic division. Pursuant to the trial court's order, the district court retained jurisdiction to hear matters arising from the instant case. This argument is without merit.
    In her third argument, respondent contends that the trial court abused its discretion in making the grandfather and his wife guardians because they have not been cooperative in addressing issues concerning the grandmother's visitation, and further because the trial court's order prevents the grandmother from filing a motion for review of the visitation schedule. We disagree.
    At the disposition hearing the trial court must make a determination based on the best interests of the child, and the trial court's decision will not be overturned absent an abuse of its discretion. In re Dexter, 147 N.C. App. 110, 114, 553 S.E.2d 922, 924-25 (2001). In the instant case, there is nothing in the trial court's order supporting respondent's contention that the grandfather has not been cooperative with respect to visitation with the grandmother. The record shows, and the order reflects,that the grandfather and the grandmother entered into a visitation agreement after physical custody of the child was placed with the grandfather and his wife. This agreement mandates unsupervised visitation with the grandmother every Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., every second weekend of each month from 8:00 a.m. Friday until 5:00 p.m. Sunday, and additional time shared between the parties around the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holidays. The trial court ordered that this agreed upon visitation schedule be continued as the minimum visitation allowed the grandmother unless and until modified by the consent of the parties or court order. As held above, the trial court did not err in requiring motions for modification of visitation to be filed in the domestic division of district court. Further, the trial court found that the child was doing well living with the grandfather, that visits with the grandmother were going well, and that continued placement with the grandfather was in the child's best interests. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in making the grandfather and his wife guardians of D.S.W. This argument is without merit.
    Judges HUNTER and TYSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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