In re R.P., ___ N.C. App. ___, 798 S.E.2d 428 (2017)

Held: 
Reversed and Remanded
  • Before ordering guardianship to a nonparent as a permanent plan, the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent parent was unfit or acted inconsistently with his constitutionally protected status as a parent. This finding is required even when a juvenile has previously been adjudicated neglected and dependent. Here, the order made no reference to the respondent father’s constitutionally protected status as a parent.
  • Although a respondent parent can waive the required findings regarding his/her constitutionally protected parental status when the issue is not raised before the trial court, the respondent father did not waive those findings here. Procedurally, there had been a permanency planning hearing the month before, where the court determined that the concurrent permanent plans were guardianship and reunification and that it would proceed with the permanent plan of guardianship at the next hearing. Guardianship was not ordered until the next permanency planning hearing, where the evidence at that hearing was limited to visitation only. As a result, the respondent father was not offered the opportunity to raise an objection on constitutional grounds and, therefore, did not waive his right to the required findings.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Topic:
Guardianship
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