In re D.C., 378 N.C. 556 (2021)

  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent and placed in DSS custody. In 2020, DSS filed a TPR petition, which was granted. The juvenile was in foster care for 34 months and the parents did not pay anything toward the cost of that care although having an ability to do so. The parents appeal, focusing on the lack of notice to the parents that they were obligated to pay such that their actions were not willful.
  • 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 cost of care is the amount it costs DSS to care for the child – foster care. The parent’s portion must be be fair, just, and equitable based on the parent’s ability/means to pay.  
  • Relying on In re S.E., 373 N.C. 360 (2020), parents have an inherent duty to support their children and the lack of a court order, notice, or knowledge of a requirement to pay is not a defense for a parent who has an obligation to pay reasonable costs. Ignorance is not a basis to say the failure to pay was not willful. The supreme court rejected respondents’ argument to disavow In re S.E., and instead adhered to and addressed the principle of stare decisis. The unchallenged findings should parents had the ability to pay and did not pay any amount.


Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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