In re A.A.M., 2021-NCSC-129

  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent due to circumstances involving mother’s substance use. The juvenile was placed in DSS custody. Later, respondent was judicially determined to be the juvenile’s father and was added as a party to the action. Due to father’s criminal behavior and being in custody, he was ordered to enter into a case plan and be released from custody before he could have supervised visitation with the juvenile. Father did not enter into a case plan and remained in custody. The court ordered father complete certain actions. Father made himself only minimally available to the court, DSS, and GAL. DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted. Father appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR on the ground of willful abandonment for the 6 consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition. Abandonment involves the willful or intentional conduct by the parent that evinces a settled purpose to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child. Willfulness is a question of fact and is an integral part of abandonment. Abandonment involves a parent withholding his presence, love, care and opportunity to display filial affection and willfully failing to support the child such that the parent relinquishes all parental claims to the child. The determinative time period is the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition.
  • A trial judge determines what inference to draw from the evidence and what inferences to reject when different inferences may be made from the evidence. The court determines witness credibility, which often occurs when there is inconsistent or contradictory evidence. The appellate court does not reweigh the evidence. Although a contrary finding could have been made, evidence supports the trial court’s finding.
  • Findings are supported by the evidence. Testimony showed the foster parents provided father with their address and contact information and father had the ability to communicate by phone but failed to do so. Father did not send letters, cards, or gifts, and gifts sent by father’s fiancé were done so voluntarily on her part and not at father’s request. Father did not pay any support. The findings support the conclusion.
Termination of Parental Rights
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