In re M.R.J., 378 N.C. 648 (2021)

  • Facts: In the underlying neglect action, the juvenile’s primary permanent plan was adoption. DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted. Mother appeals, challenging the court’s dispositional determination that the TPR was in the child’s best interests. Mother executed a specific relinquishment to her sister and brother-in-law and argued the trial court abused its discretion by mistakenly believing the TPR was necessary to provide the juvenile with legal protections to allow for his adoption. The child was placed with a different couple who were also interested in adopting him. (Mother also appealed raising subject matter jurisdiction).
  • The standard of review is an abuse of discretion, which occurs when the court’s decision is “manifestly unsupported by reason or is so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision” or if it applies a “misunderstanding of the relevant law.” 378 N.C. at 663.
  • The court did not misunderstand the law or abuse its discretion. A specific relinquishment may be revoked if the specific placement did not adopt the child. G.S. 48-3-704, -797(b). Additionally, at any time before the final adoption decree, mother could challenge the relinquishment on the bases of fraud or duress. G.S. 48-3-707(a)(1). This would deny permanence for a period of time.  The TPR facilitates the child’s adoption by adoptive parents who are identified and approved by DSS. There is no evidence as to why the specific couple mother identified, to the exclusion of his current caretakers or other potential adoptive families, is in the child’s best interests. The court appropriately considered the factors under G.S. 7B-1110(a).
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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