In re A.P.W., 378 N.C. 405 (2021)

  • Facts: The juveniles were adjudicated neglected in 2017. After reunification was eliminated as a permanent plan, DSS initiated a TPR. In 2020, the court entered orders terminating the parents’ rights. This summary focuses on mother’s appeal, which challenges the court’s failure to including findings on her income, employment, or capacity for the relative time period such that a finding of willfulness is not supported.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes a TPR when a parent willfully fails to pay a reasonable portion of the child’s care for a continuous period of 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition/motion although physically and financially able to do so. The portion of the cost of care must be fair, just, and equitable based on the parent’s ability/means to pay. Willfulness is a question of fact.
  • Mother signed a voluntary support agreement (VSA) of $112/month after demonstrating her ability to work based on periods of employment. Under G.S. 110-132(a3), a VSA has “the same force and effect as an order of support entered by that court, and shall enforceable and subject to modification in the same manner as is provided by law for orders of the court in such cases.” 378 N.C. at 424. Mother never sought to modify or nullify the VSA and paid nothing toward the cost of care during the determinative 6-month period. The VSA established mother’s ability to financially support the children.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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