In re J.O.D., ___ N.C. ___ (July 17, 2020)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected due primarily to issues of substance use as well as domestic violence. After adoption was ordered as the primary permanent plan, DSS filed a TPR petition alleging neglect. The court granted the TPR, respondent mother filed a no merit appeal. Respondent father appealed arguing there was no likelihood of repetition of neglect.
  • Under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1), neglect is a ground to TPR. Neglect includes a parent’s lack of proper care, supervision, or discipline or an environment that is injurious to a child’s welfare. G.S. 7B-101(15).  When a parent and child have been separated for a long period of time, there must be both past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by the parent. The determinative factors are the child’s best interests and the fitness of the parent at the time of the adjudicatory hearing to TPR. “The trial court must consider all evidence of relevant circumstances or events which existed or occurred either before or after the adjudication of neglect.” Sl.Op. at 7 (emphasis in opinion).
  • The findings are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and support the conclusion of neglect.
    • The findings showed that father has a history of struggling with opiate addiction as well as use of other drugs. His case plan required he participate in substance abuse treatment. The evidence and findings showed that after initially complying with his case plan, he was discharged from treatment, repeatedly tested positive on his drug screens, and was abusing alcohol such that he did not make meaningful progress at the time of the TPR hearing. The conclusion that a likelihood of future neglect existed was appropriate given father’s history of substance use, failure to follow treatment recommendations, relapse, and alcohol abuse.  There was domestic violence in the relationship with mother as well. Respondent father did not complete a domestic violence program and continued to remain in a relationship with discord with mother. Based on social worker testimony, the trial court’s inference that respondents continued to live together was reasonable. Record evidence that would have supported a contrary conclusion will not be reweighed by the appellate court. The trial court is also entitled to not give credit to father’s testimony that he would separate from mother.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Neglect
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