In re M.Y.P., 2021-NCSC-113

  • Facts: In 2019, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and dependent based on circumstances resulting from domestic violence, mental health issues, substance use, improper supervision,  and lack of stable housing. DSS filed a TPR motion, which was granted on the ground of neglect. Father appeals, challenging the grounds and best interest determination. This summary focuses on the best interests determination. Father argues the court erred in excluding his testimony about the child’s placement with the child’s maternal grandfather, as the court sustained DSS’s objection, stating the allegation about the grandfather’s suitability as a placement had been litigated and resolved.
  • A party must make an offer of proof to preserve an argument about the exclusion of evidence. G.S. 8C-1, Rule 103(a)(2). There was no offer of proof about the excluded testimony and the substance of that testimony is not obvious from the record.
  • Assuming the issue was preserved for appeal, the court did not abuse its discretion. G.S. 7B-1110(a) allows the court to consider any evidence it finds to be relevant, reliable, and necessary to determine the child’s best interests. When compared to the adjudicatory stage where the Rules of Evidence apply, the court has more discretion in receiving evidence at the dispositional stage.
  • Unlike the adjudicatory stage, there is no burden of proof on any party at the dispositional stage. Trial court consolidated the adjudicatory and dispositional hearings and in its TPR order stated the findings were made by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Although the order did not state the different evidentiary standard, after it made findings of the dispositional factors in G.S. 7B-1110(a), it noted that the TPR was in the child’s best interests. This shows the court understood what it had to consider when determining best interests and even if the wrong standard was applied, there was no prejudice to father as DSS would have had to overcome a higher standard.
Termination of Parental Rights
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