In re L.M.B., 284 N.C. App. 41 (2022)

  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated neglected in 2019 and was placed with relatives. After the primary permanent plan was changed to adoption, DSS filed a TPR motion in 2021, which was granted. The dispositional portion of the TPR order was signed by the chief district court judge for the judge who presided over the hearing. The parents appeal challenging the grounds; father also challenges the best interests finding and the validity of the order.
  •  G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes a TPR when a parent willfully fails to pay for a reasonable portion of the child’s cost of care for the six months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR when the parent is financially and physically able to do so.
  • Here the relevant time period is July 29, 2020 to January 29, 2021. Although parents selectively challenged some findings, the remaining 245 unchallenged findings (which are binding on appeal) support the court’s conclusion that parents failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care. Mother was employed or receiving unemployment benefits throughout the life of the case and father received disability benefits, yet the parents paid zero in child support.
  • Although the parents provided clothes, diapers, and toys at visits, there is nothing in In re J.A.E.W., 375 N.C. 112 (2020) that requires the trial court to consider “in kind” contributions as a form of support. Although the court acknowledged these gifts, the court did not err when determining that the gifts did not qualify as court-ordered financial support payments. In this case, the parents had been ordered to provide child support and the court found there was no agreement between DSS and the parents that the contributions would offset the support obligation.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
Click on a term below for additional case summaries tagged with the same term.