In re G.G.M., ___ N.C. ___ (March 19, 2021)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • 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.
  • Standard of review is an abuse of discretion. Findings must be based on competent evidence. G.S. 7B-1110(a) specifically allows for the consideration of hearsay evidence when determining a child’s best interests.
  • At disposition, the court must consider the factors of G.S. 7B-1110(a). Written findings are required for factors that have conflicting evidence, such that it is placed at issue before the court.
  • A likelihood of adoption is not required for a TPR to be determined to be in the child’s best interests and therefore granted. Here, the court found the petitioners were seeking custody of the children via a Chapter 50 action, which is not an adoption.
  • The trial court determines the weight and credibility of the evidence. Father challenges the GAL’s basis for her testimony and credibility, but the court found the testimony to be credible.
  • There is a discussion about how this case is distinguishable from Bost v. Van Nortwick, 117 N.C. App. 1 (1994). Here, the court’s findings do not solely focus on how well the children were doing with the petitioners; the father did not show any desire to be part of the children’s lives for years, until 2 weeks before the TPR petition was filed; and the children’s GAL recommended the TPR be granted.
  • There was not ineffective assistance of counsel. Respondent has not shown how his attorney’s failure to object or introduce evidence that grandparents’ retaliated by seeking a Ch. 50 custody order would have resulted in a different outcome.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Disposition
Topic:
Best Interests Findings
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