In re K.J.E., 2021-NCSC-109

Held: 
Vacated and Remanded
  • Facts: In 2019, mother filed TPR petition against father, alleging father did not provide substantial support or consistent care for the juvenile. Evidence showed father had a child support obligation, was under an income withholding order, and was in arrears at the time the TPR petition was filed. Evidence also showed father had not made any effort to have contact with the child since the child’s birth and his last contact, resulting from mother’s efforts, was in 2017. The TPR was granted, and father appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the findings for the ground.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR when a parent willfully abandons their child for 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR. Abandonment involves a parent’s intent to forego all parental duties and claims by withholding their love, care, guidance, presence, affection, and support. Willfulness is a question of fact.
  • The court’s findings are insufficient as they do not address the relevant six-month time period and do not address father’s conduct (acts or omissions) during that time period but consist of a general statement that father did not make a significant effort to establish a relationship with his child. Regarding father’s child support payments, although the finding addresses the six-month time period, it does not address the amount that was withheld or any other circumstances. Evidence was presented that could support additional findings that might support the conclusion, but those findings were made in the dispositional portion of the order. Those dispositional findings are not considered by the appellate court given the different evidentiary standards and burden of proof at the dispositional stage of a TPR hearing.
Category:
Termination of Parental Rights
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Abandonment
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