In re A.S.M.R., 375 N.C. 539 (2020)

  • Facts: Respondent challenges the underlying neglect adjudication order for alleged evidentiary errors and insufficient findings, arguing that the defects in that order make the order invalid and result in DSS not having custody of the juvenile. Respondent’s additionally raise the failure to include findings addressing UCCJEA subject matter jurisdiction in the underlying adjudication order is a jurisdictional defect such that the order is void. Based on these errors, respondent argues DSS lacks standing to file a TPR.
  • “Respondents are precluded from contesting the validity of the trial court’s [neglect] adjudication order in the present appeal, which is an appeal only of the trial court’s subsequent termination order.” Sl.Op. at 4. By failing to appeal the neglect adjudication order, respondent has abandoned any non-jurisdictional challenges to that order. A TPR proceeding is separate and distinct from an underlying adjudication of a juvenile’s abuse, neglect, or dependency proceeding. In examining prior court of appeals opinions that addressed non-jurisdictional challenges to prior adjudication orders in TPR actions, “we conclude that the principles set out in Wheeler and its progeny are correct. For the reasons set out in those decisions, a respondent’s failure to appeal an adjudication order generally serves to preclude a subsequent collateral attack on that order during an appeal of a later order terminating the parental rights.” 8. See In re Wheeler, 87 N.C. App. 189 (1987). The adjudication order granted custody to DSS, and DSS had standing to file the TPR.
  • Quoting a previous opinion, In re L.T., 374 N.C. 567, 569 (2020), “the trial court is not required to make specific findings of fact demonstrating its jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, but the record must reflect that the jurisdictional prerequisites of the Act were satisfied when the court exercised jurisdiction.” Sl.Op. at 11. “[T]he lack of explicit findings establishing jurisdiction under the UCCJEA does not constitute error because the record unambiguously demonstrates that ‘the jurisdictional prerequisites in the Act were satisfied.” Id. Here, the record reflects NC was the children’s home state at all relevant times and NC had jurisdiction in the adjudication proceeding.
Termination of Parental Rights
Department with Custody
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