In re K.N.K., 374 N.C. 50 (2020)

  • Facts: In 2017, mother filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights on the ground of willful abandonment. Prior to the TPR petition, in 2015, a child custody order awarded mother sole care, custody, and control of the child and twice monthly supervised visitation with father. Mother had a DVPO against father from 2014 – 2018. From 2015- 2018, the DVPO included the child but allowed for supervised visitation. The court ordered the TPR and father appealed both the ground and best interests determinations.
  • Abandonment under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) looks to a determinative 6 consecutive month period immediately before the TPR petition or motion is filed. Abandonment involves a parent’s conduct that manifests a willful determination to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child.
  • Willfulness is a question of fact. Because it is an emotion, it is typically proved by circumstances that may be inferred. The court may look outside the determinative 6-month period when evaluating a parent’s credibility and intentions.
  • The findings show that from 2014 to the date the TPR was filed, respondent father had no contact or communication with the child even after he was awarded visitation twice a month in the 2016 custody order, did not provide financial support for the child, did not attempt to attend any medical appointments or school/extracurricular activities for the child, and did not seek a modification of the child custody order. These findings support the ultimate findings that respondent acted willfully, with the intent of foregoing his parental responsibilities.
Termination of Parental Rights
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