In re A.J.P., 375 N.C. 516 (2020)

There is a dissent
Earls, J.
  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated a dependent juvenile based on circumstances due to mother’s substance use and criminal activity and putative father’s criminal activity and inability to care for their infant and lack of an appropriate alternative child care arrangement. Mother and putative father executed a relinquishment. It was later discovered putative father was not the biological father and a TPR on unknown fathers was initiated. Respondent father contacted DSS to indicate he might be the father, and he was determined to be so. Father was incarcerated but entered into a family services plan and the dependency case continued. Eventually DSS filed a TPR alleging father had willfully left the juvenile in foster care and failed to make reasonable progress and willfully abandoned the juvenile. The TPR petition was filed in April 2019 and the hearing was continued in May 2019 because respondent father’s attorney withdrew due to a conflict of interest and a new attorney was appointed and needed time to prepare. The TPR hearing was scheduled for July 2019 and at the beginning of the hearing father’s attorney requested a continuance so he could review a previous order that was not included in the court file. The request was denied. The court held the hearing and concluded both grounds existed. Father appeals.
  • Because the motion to continue was not based on a constitutional right, the standard of review is an abuse of discretion.
  • Continuances are addressed by G.S. 7B-803 and 7B-1109(d). To continue a TPR hearing beyond the 90-day statutory period, father was required to show extraordinary circumstances existed to support a second continuance. There was no such showing. There were numerous references in the court file to the order father’s attorney did not have. The court did not abuse its discretion.
Termination of Parental Rights
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