In re R.G.L., 379 N.C. 452 (2021)

  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected due to circumstances of a lack of proper care and supervision because of parents’ substance use and housing concerns. DSS filed a TPR motion in 2020 after the primary permanent plan of adoption was identified. The TPR was granted, and father appeals. Father challenges the grounds and best interests determination. This summary focuses on the best interests determination.
  • A best interests determination is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. The appellate court will not second-guess the trial court’s determination of the child’s best interests.
  • At disposition, the court considers the factors in G.S. 7B-1110(a) and makes findings of those factors that are relevant. The court made the relevant findings. Although the court stated that the TPR is in the child’s best interests and that the child would be able to keep contact with his biological parents, that was not a finding in the TPR order. Further, it was not a misapprehension of law about the effect of a TPR legally and permanently severing the parents’ rights but was instead a recognition of the unique circumstances in this case where the foster parents, who wished to adopt, testified they were willing to allow for continued contact unless it was unsafe, and recognized the foster family’s values of not foreclosing the possibility of ongoing contact.
  • Father challenges a prior permanency planning order that was not subject to appeal under G.S. 7B-1001 as an intermediate order that could be appealed pursuant to G.S. 1-278 because it was necessary to be considered in the TPR since it identified adoption as the primary permanent plan, and at the TPR disposition, the court addresses whether the TPR would aid in achieving the permanent plan. Father challenges the order based on a misapprehension of law as the prior permanency planning order contained a finding that guardianship would be appropriate but there was no available relative. Father argued a relative is not required for guardianship. Under G.S. 1-278, there must be a timely objection when a review of an intermediate order is made. No objection was made and other permanency planning orders were entered afterwards that had similar findings. The collateral attack on this prior permanency planning order will not be considered.
  • The consideration of dispositional alternatives at the TPR dispositional hearing is not required.
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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