In re A.L.I., 380 N.C. 697 (2022)

  • Facts: Mother filed a TPR petition against respondent father. Father is and has been incarcerated in New York since 2017. Father wrote letters to the court, was represented by court appointed counsel, and participated in the TPR remotely. The TPR was granted, and father appeals. The sole issue is whether the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction under G.S. 7B-1101 based on the service language that applies to nonresident parents. Father argues the record does not show he was served with a summons. The Supreme Court, for purposes of this appeal, assumed he was not properly served.
  • G.S. 7B-1101 states “before exercising jurisdiction under this Article regarding the parental rights of a nonresident parent, the court shall find … that process was served on the nonresident parent.” This language relates to personal jurisdiction and not subject matter jurisdiction. “A parent’s status as a nonresident does not alter the fact that arguments of insufficient service of a summons pertain to personal jurisdiction rather than subject matter jurisdiction.” 380 N.C. at 701.
  • Citing two prior opinions – In re K.J.L., 363 N.C. 343 (2009) and In re J.T., 363 N.C. 1 (2009) – personal jurisdiction, not subject matter jurisdiction, is impacted by deficiencies in the issuance or service of a summons. A summons does not impact subject matter jurisdiction. Unlike subject matter jurisdiction, the defenses related to personal jurisdiction (e.g. insufficient service of process) can be waived. Father waived this defense when he made a general appearance through his letters to the court, remote participation, and representation by counsel, without objection.
Termination of Parental Rights
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
G.S. 7B Jurisdiction
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