In re A.L.L., 376 N.C. 99 (2020)

There is a dissent
in part and concur in part, Newby, J.
  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated dependent in an underlying juvenile action based on circumstances related to mother’s mental health issues. During the course of the underlying dependency action, mother was ordered to comply with her case plan, which she did but she was still engaging in inappropriate behaviors and had parenting deficits. Ultimately the court appointed permanent guardians for the juvenile under G.S. 7B-600, achieving a permanent plan. The guardians filed the TPR petition so they could adopt. The TPR was granted on the grounds of dependency and willful abandonment. Mother appeals both grounds and argues the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.
  • Subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that is reviewed de novo. Subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, including on appeal. When the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, its orders are void.
  • Respondent argues the Davie County district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the Davidson County district court previously entered a permanency order that awarded guardianship to the petitioner and Davie County’s action would override the Davidson County’s permanency planning order. The Davie County district court had subject matter jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction in a TPR is governed by G.S. 7B-1101, and the petitioners had standing to initiate the TPR under G.S. 7B-1103, which they did in the county where they resided with the juvenile. Jurisdiction in a TPR does not require an underlying abuse, neglect, or dependency action. Additionally, the Juvenile Code does not require a TPR action to be filed in the same district court as an A/N/D action if one exists. If the requirements of G.S. 7B-1101 exist, the court has jurisdiction even if an A/N/D action is pending in another county.
Termination of Parental Rights
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
G.S. 7B Jurisdiction
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