In re P.T.W., 250 N.C. App. 589 (2016)

  • Under the Juvenile Code, the court must appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child when a petition is filed by the county department that alleges the juvenile is abused or neglected [G.S. 7B-601(a)] or in a termination of parental rights (TPR) action where the respondent parent files an answer denying a material allegation in the petition or motion [G.S. 7B-1108(b)]. When a GAL appointment is not statutorily required in a TPR, the court may exercise its discretion and appoint a GAL to represent the child’s best interests [G.S. 7B-1108(c)].
  • In this TPR action, the respondent parent did not file an answer. There was an underlying dependency action, where the court had not appointed a GAL to represent the child. The court was not statutorily required to appoint, and did not appoint, a GAL to represent the child’s best interests. Respondent did not object to the court’s failure to appoint a GAL for the child, and therefore, did not preserve the issue for appeal.
  • The trial court acted within its discretion when it did not appoint a GAL to represent the child’s best interests in the TPR proceeding. The court heard testimony from the petitioner, respondent, and respondent’s family member. There was no evidence that it was unreasonable for the court to determine the child’s best interests without the assistance of a GAL. 
Termination of Parental Rights
GAL for Child
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