In re A.L.S., 374 N.C. 515 (2020)

  • Facts: In 2016, petitioners obtained a G.S. Chapter 50 custody order awarding them sole legal and physical custody of the child after determining both parents had acted inconsistently with their parental rights. In 2018, petitioners filed a TPR against both parents. Respondent mother requested a continuance, which was granted, so that her minor son could testify. When the TPR hearing resumed, respondent mother requested another continuance because her son was not present although he was subpoenaed through the adult he was living with. The court denied the second motion to continue. The TPR was granted, and respondent mother appeals challenging the court’s denial of her motion to continue and the ground of abandonment.
  • The standard of review for an adjudication is whether the findings are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and whether the findings support the conclusion of law. Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.
  • Abandonment under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) has a determinate period of six months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition, but the parent’s actions outside of that time period may be considered to evaluate a parent’s credibility and intentions during the determinative 6-month period. Abandonment involves “conduct on the part of the parent which manifests a willful determination to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child.” Sl.Op. at 7 (citation omitted). Whether a parent acted willfully is a question of fact.
  • The appellate court is bound by the unchallenged findings of fact, which support the adjudication of abandonment. Although there was ill will between petitioner and respondent-mother, “a parent will not be excused from showing interest in [the] child’s welfare by whatever means available.” Sl.Op. at 10 (emphasis in opinion) (citation omitted). Mother made no effort to communicate with or contact the child for 2 years, including the 6-month determinative period, even though she knew the petitioner’s location. The Chapter 50 order, although providing no visitation to mother, did not prohibit contact. Mother never sought to modify the Ch. 50 order.
Termination of Parental Rights
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