In re L.M.M., 379 N.C. 431 (2021)

  • Facts: Petitioners (aunt and uncle) obtained an emergency Chapter 50 custody order for the child after mother died, and father was arrested and later convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Father was prohibited from having visitation. After his release from prison, father sent $800, cards, and gifts to the child. Father testified his probation officer told him to not contact the victim’s family (in this case, the victim’s sister).
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(7) authorizes a TPR when a parent has willfully abandoned their child for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition. Abandonment is conduct on the parent’s part that manifests a willful determination to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims. A parent relinquishes his parental claims when they withhold their presence, love, care, opportunity to display filial affection and willfully fails to provide support and maintenance. Willfulness is a question of fact. The determinative time period is the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR.
  • The court determines the credibility of witnesses, the weight to give their testimony, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from that testimony. The trial court determined respondent’s testimony was not credible in making its findings of fact and his testimony did not rebut petitioner’s evidence that he stopped providing money, cards, and gifts for his daughter. There was no evidence other than his testimony, which the court found not credible, that respondent was prohibited from having contact with the maternal relatives (the victim’s family). The custody order prohibited visitation only.
  • During the determinative time period, father sent one card and gif, which the court determined was not a sincere effort, and did not send money or support or attempt to attempt to reestablish a relationship with his daughter or inquire as to her well-being. Letters father sent after the TPR was filed is outside the determinative six-month period. Father’s minimal participation in the Ch. 50 custody action was outside the determinative time period. The findings support the conclusion of willful abandonment.
Termination of Parental Rights
Click on a term below for additional case summaries tagged with the same term.