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South Carolina Department of Social Services v. Wiseman

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

February 13, 2019

South Carolina Department of Social Services, Respondent,
v.
James Wiseman and Judy Wiseman, Appellants. In the interest of a minor under the age of eighteen. Appellate Case No. 2016-001903

          Heard December 6, 2018

          Appeal From Charleston County Daniel E. Martin, Jr., Family Court Judge

          Paul E. Tinkler and William P. Tinkler, both of Law Office of Paul E. Tinkler, of Charleston; and Stephen Gordon Dey, of Dey Law Firm, LLC, of Charleston, for Appellants.

          Scarlet Bell Moore, of Greenville, for Respondent.

          Jessica Lynn Means, of Hall & Means, LLC, of Charleston, for the Guardian ad Litem.

          McDONALD, J.

         Pursuant to an investigation of minor child's (Minor's) allegations of abuse and neglect by her adoptive parents, the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) brought an action against James (Father) and Judy (Mother) Wiseman (collectively, the Wisemans), seeking findings of excessive corporal punishment and abandonment.[1] Although the family court declined to make a finding of abuse and neglect, it found the Wisemans abandoned Minor when they were unable to accept her into their custody upon her release from the Medical University of South Carolina's Institute of Psychiatry (MUSC-IOP). We reverse the finding of abandonment and remand to the family court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On January 29, 2016, Mother took away Minor's easy bake oven and iPad because Minor was falling behind in her schoolwork and being disrespectful.[2] At this point, Minor "got up in [Mother's] face" and began screaming, using profanity, and threatening Mother with her fists. Mother told Minor to go outside and cool down; however, Minor remained very upset.

         Shortly thereafter, Father arrived home and attempted to calm Minor. When Father tugged on Minor's shirt and asked her to stand up, Minor tried to hit Father with a brick. In his effort to avoid being struck with the brick, Father grabbed at Minor's hair as he fell backward to the ground. Minor then threatened to hit Father with a metal bar, nearly hit Mother with the metal bar, and ran down the street to a neighbor's house.[3]

         Officer Matthew Treitler of the Horry County Police Department responded to the scene. He testified that when he arrived at the neighbor's house, Minor had "no sign of bruising, scrapes, abrasions, nothing along those lines that would be there if [she had been] thrown up against the bricks or a hard surface or something like that." He further explained "there would be some sign of trauma or something, but I did not observe anything while I was there." Due to Minor's behavior, Officer Treitler believed she needed psychiatric treatment.[4] He testified:

By the way she was acting and just the emotional states that she was going between. Between being completely hysterical, upset and crying and not talking and then just being completely straight-faced, I mean, within a couple of seconds of one another. I believe that something was going on.

         Officer Treitler filed no charges. Instead, he took Minor back to the Wisemans, who drove her to MUSC-IOP, where she was admitted.

         DSS received Minor's allegations on February 1, 2016. Later that day, investigative caseworker Dominique Richard contacted the Wisemans. The following day, Richard visited Minor at MUSC-IOP and met with therapist ...


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