In re I.R.M.B., ___ N.C. ___ (March 19, 2021)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • Facts: In 2014, mother obtained a multi-year order of protection against father in California where they lived. Father was prohibited from having contact with mother and child. Mother and child moved to NC. In 2015, father filed a custody action in California that he never pursued and was removed from the calendar. In 2016, mother filed a TPR petition in NC against father. After jurisdictional issues were resolved, the TPR was heard and granted on the ground of abandonment. Father appeals.
  • 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. Willfulness is an integral part of abandonment. The court may consider the parent’s conduct outside of the determinative 6-month period when evaluating a parent’s credibility and intentions. Willfulness is a question of fact.
  • Unchallenged findings of fact support the court’s conclusion such that the appellate court does not need to consider the respondent father’s challenged findings of fact. Although father had a restraining order prohibiting contact, he was aware of his ability to seek legal custody and visitation even with the limitations in the restraining order. Although he filed for custody in 2015, he took no further action in that case. Further, his actions of domestic violence against mother support a reasonable inference of willfulness for this TPR ground.

 

Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Abandonment
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