In re K.C., ___ N.C. App. ___, 812 S.E.2d 873 (2018)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • Procedural History: In 2014, father petitioned to terminate respondent mother’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7). The 2014 petition was granted in a 2015 TPR order. Respondent appealed, and the TPR was reversed (In re K.C., 805 S.E.2d 299 (2016)). Later in 2016, approximately 6 months after the appellate decision,  father filed a new petition seeking to terminate respondent mother’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7). The TPR was granted in July 2017. Respondent mother appeals, arguing the law of the case prevented the trial court from concluding respondent abandoned the child.
  • “The law of the case doctrine does not apply when the evidence presented at a subsequent proceeding is different from that presented on a former appeal,” which in this case is the six months next preceding the filing of the second (2016) petition. (Quoting Bank of America, N.A., v. Rice, 780 S.E.2d 873, 880 (2015)). “The prior opinion … does not mean that respondent is immune from termination of her parental rights based upon abandonment for the rest of the child’s minority even if [respondent] never seeks to see [the child] or communicate with him again.”
  • Although some findings related to events that took place prior to the first petition in 2014, the order on appeal included several unchallenged findings of fact about events occurring after the filing of the 2014 petition and made its decision based on the period of at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the 2016 petition. The unchallenged findings are that respondent did not have even minimal contact with the child after the 2015 TPR order was reversed even though she had a way to contact petitioner and his family, and she failed to appear at the hearing resulting in the 2017 TPR order on appeal.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Abandonment
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