In re B.F.N., 381 N.C. 372 (2022)

Vacated and Remanded
  • Facts: In 2015, mother-petitioner obtained a DVPO against father and an order awarding primary custody to mother and secondary joint custody with visitation to the father. In 2017, father assaulted mother in the children’s presence. Mother obtained a new DVPO and a modified custody order that granted exclusive care, custody, and control of the children to mother. The custody prohibited contact with petitioner or the children and imposed several conditions father had to complete before he could file a motion to modify based on a substantial change in circumstances. In 2020, mother filed a TPR petition alleging neglect by abandonment and willful abandonment. The court denied the TPR based on insufficient evidence. Mother appeals.
  • “[T]he trial court’s findings of fact do not permit meaningful appellate review and are thus insufficient to support the trial court's denial of the termination petition.” 381 N.C. at 376. G.S. 7B-1110(c) requires the court to make appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law when denying a TPR. Fact finding requirements are crucial to allow for an effective appellate review. When a TPR is denied, there must be the ability to conduct an appellate review for each and very ground alleged.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR when a parent willfully abandons their child for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition. The findings about father’s actions, which included completing conditions imposed by the custody order, were outside of the determinative 6-month period. There were no findings about what actions father took during the 6-month period and whether father could have filed a motion to modify during the 6-month period, which would be relevant to determine his willfulness. The court is unable to conduct an appellate review of this ground.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR based on neglect by abandonment. There is no determinative time period. Although the court made findings about father’s current circumstances such that there was not a likelihood of repetition of neglect, the order does not address whether there was neglect by abandonment.
Termination of Parental Rights
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