In re G.G.M., 377 N.C. 29 (2021)

  • Facts: The children have resided with the petitioners, maternal grandparents, since 2011. IN 2013, father was shot several times and the perpetrators were never identified. Father had no contact with the children from 2013 until 2019 when he appeared at the grandparents’ home, unannounced, with law enforcement. He briefly saw his son but did not see his daughter. Afterwards, the grandparents obtained an ex parte G.S. Chapter 50 custody order. A week later, father went to grandparents’ home with a police officer to take custody of his children but did not do so based on the ex parte custody order the grandparents obtained. Shortly thereafter, the grandparents filed a TPR petition. The TPR was granted, and father appeals the grounds and best interests determination.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR based on willful abandonment for at least 6 consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition. Abandonment implies conduct that manifests a willful determination to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child through the withholding of the parent’s presence, love, care, opportunity to display filial affection, and failure to provide support and maintenance. Willfulness is a question of fact. The court may consider the parent’s conduct outside of the determinative 6-month period when evaluating a parent’s credibility and intentions.
  • The trial court determines the credibility of the witnesses, the weight of evidence, and the inferences to be drawn from that evidence. Although father testified he did not intent to abandon his children but instead chose to keep them safe as he feared his shooting was instigated by the children’s mother, the court ultimately determined the father willfully intended to abandon the children during the determinative time period. The court’s findings of father’s 5-year period of failing to contact and support the children support the conclusion of willful abandonment.
Termination of Parental Rights
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