In re I.R.L., ___ N.C. App. ___, 823 S.E.2d 902 (2019)

Held: 
Reversed in Part
  • Facts: I.R.L. was born in 2014. Mother and father lived with I.R.L. for 3 months in 2015 until mother and child moved out of the home. In April 2016, mother obtained a one-year DVPO against father, which prohibited contact with mother but did not forbid contact with any minor child residing with mother. On March 20, 2017, one month before the DVPO expired, father filed a complaint for visitation with I.R.L. and mother filed a TPR petition against father alleging father had not contacted or seen I.R.L. and had not paid any financial support since 2015. The TPR was granted on the grounds of failing to pay child support and abandonment. Father appeals.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(4) requires the parent has willfully failed to pay child support as required by a decree or custody agreement for one year or more preceding the filing of a TPR petition. The “petitioner must prove the existence of a support order that was enforceable during the year before the termination petition was filed.” Sl. Op. at 7. Although there was testimony of a December 2014 child support order for $50/month, the TPR order does not include findings indicating there was such an order. The findings are insufficient to support the conclusion of law.
  • The petition did not provide sufficient notice to father of the failure to pay child support ground when it alleged father “has failed to provide substantial support or consistent care for the minor child.” This allegation “may be an assertion under a ground of abandonment” and is insufficient to father on notice of the TPR ground under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(4). Sl. Op. at 8. There was no allegation of a willful failure to pay support as required by an order or separation agreement or reference to G.S. 7B-1111(a)(4).  Reversed.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Fail to Pay Child Support
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