In re Adoption of C.H.M., 282 N.C. App. 102 (2022)

There is a dissent.
  • Facts: There are 3 prior appellate opinions in this case, which has lasted over 8 years. The issue involves father’s right to consent to the adoption and motion to dismiss the adoption petition. This opinion addresses a remand from the NC Supreme Court to address father’s due process arguments that his consent is required under G.S. 48-3-601(2)(b)(4)(II), which requires father to have provided consistent support to the mother and/or child. The trial court denied father’s motion to dismiss. This is an interlocutory appeal that impacts a substantial right – father’s parental rights since an adoption would sever those rights – and is immediately appealable. Father challenges the constitutionality of G.S. 48-3-601 as it applies to him, arguing that he grasped the opportunity to establish a relationship with his child, as required by the Lehr v. Robertson standard of the U.S. Supreme Court, such that his consent is required.
  • Like In re Adoption of B.J.R., 238 N.C. App. 308 (2014), father remained passive in establishing a relationship with his child once he learned (after the mother’s deceit) that the child was his. Respondent was aware of the adoption petitioners’ and the adoption agency’s contact information yet sent no cards or gifts. There was no evidence that the petitioners or agency prevented father from doing so. Father delayed sending support payments from cash he had saved in a lockbox or from contacting petitioners until after a TPR was filed. “Respondent’s later conduct, while laudable, does not remove or excuse his non-actions for nine months in 2014, where ‘for all intents and purposes [he]…walked away from his responsibilities,’ after visiting his child in Petitioners’ home.” 282 N.C. App. at 111. Father’s later conduct “failed to preserve his entitlement to the constitutional ‘protection of the family unit’ guaranteed by the Due Process Clause.’ ” and has no right to give or withhold his consent to the adoption. Id.
  • Dissent: Father attempted to assert his rights before child was born but was hindered by mother’s blatant deceit. Petitioners for a period of time preventing father from interacting with the child and during that time, father took steps to who he was wanting to grasp the opportunity to parent his child.
Adoption of a Minor Child
Unwed Father
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