In re J.C.J., 381 N.C. 783 (2022)

  • Facts:  In 2018, the juveniles were adjudicated neglected. In 2020, DSS filed a TPR motion that was granted. Parents appeal, challenging the grounds and best interests determination.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes the court to terminate a parent’s rights when the juvenile has been placed in DSS custody or a foster home and the parent has willfully failed to pay for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition or motion a reasonable cost of the juvenile’s care despite having the physical and financial ability to do so. The cost of care is the cost to DSS, and a parent should pay the portion that is just, fair, and equitable based on the parent’s ability.
  • “[T]he sporadic provision of gifts for the benefit of the [juveniles] by respondent-mother does not preclude a determination that respondent-mother had failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of the care that the [juveniles] had received following their removal from the family home given that respondent-mother made no payment to DSS or the foster parents during the pendency of the case, including the determinative six-month period….” 381 N.C. at 790-91.
  • The absence of a court order or notice of the need to pay support is not a defense to this TPR ground because a parent has an inherent duty to support their children. The challenge that this ground violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution is waived as she did not raise this issue at the trial court.
  • The findings that father has paid zero and had been employed throughout the pendency of the case shows he was continuously employed from the start of the case up to the TPR hearing, which necessarily includes the 6-month determinative time period.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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