In re A.H.D., ___ N.C. App. ___, 883 S.E.2d 492 (2023)

Vacated and Remanded
  • Facts: Mother filed TPR action against father alleging that for more than one year, father did not have contact with or visitation with the child and for more than one year, father has failed and refused to pay child support. A TPR hearing was held where mother and father testified. Mother testified to the existence of a child support order and father’s nonpayment, except for some tax intercepts. The court granted the TPR under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(4). Father appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the petition, the failure of the court to find the TPR ground by clear and convincing evidence, and insufficient evidence of the ground.
  • G.S. 7B-1104(6) requires a petition state “the [f]acts that are sufficient to warrant a determination that one or more of the grounds for terminating parental rights exists.” Sl. Op. at 8. Allegations need not be exhaustive but they must put a party on notice of the acts or omissions that are at issue. Father was put on notice of the ground for willful failure to pay child support for one year immediately preceding the petition. Only 1 of the 11 grounds address the willful failure to pay child support pursuant to a court order. Failing to include the citation for the statutory ground is not inadequate when the language of the allegation puts the party on notice. Failing to allege there is a judicial decree or child support order does not render the petition insufficient, although including a child support order exists is the better practice. The allegations stated father “refused” to pay child support, and refused shows an active decision to not pay, which is a willful decision to not pay.
Termination of Parental Rights
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