In re N.P., 374 N.C. 61 (2020)

  • Facts: In 2017, the child was adjudicated neglected and dependent. In 2019, the court entered an order terminating respondents’ parental rights on all the grounds alleged and concluding it was in the child’s best interests. Respondent father appeals, challenging the grounds. This opinion addresses neglect.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(1) authorizes a TPR when the parent has neglected the juvenile, which includes a parent who does not provide proper care, supervision, or discipline, or an injurious environment. When there is a long period of separation between the child and parent, the petitioner must show past neglect and a likelihood of future neglect by the parent. When looking at future neglect, the court looks to evidence of changed circumstances between the period of past neglect and the time of the TPR hearing.
  • The more than 90 findings were sufficient to support the conclusion of neglect. Those findings included father never acknowledging his responsibility for his convictions on multiple sex offenses against a child; not timely completing a court-ordered sex offender assessment and not completing recommended treatment; paranoid behaviors; a lack of stable housing and proper vetting of roommates; and history of poor decision-making and noncompliance with court orders.
  • Broad based exceptions to findings of fact that ineffectual as findings that are not sufficiently challenged are presumed to be supported by competent evidence and are binding on appeal. Of the specifically challenged findings, “the district court has the responsibility of making all reasonable inferences from the evidence presented” and here “the district court could reasonably infer from the evidence that respondent could not maintain safe houing… and lacked the ability to do so in the future.” Sl.Op. at 7.
  • The role of an appellate court is not to substitute its judgment for the trier of fact. The district court had repeated opportunities to observe respondent when determining whether his behaviors (addressed in the findings) impacted his ability to parent such that the child would be placed in an injurious environment.
Termination of Parental Rights
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