In re S.C.C., 379 N.C. 303 (2021)

  • Facts: In 2018, the juvenile was adjudicated neglected and was placed in DSS custody. In two separate 2019 permanency planning orders, the court found the parents were subject to child support orders and at most the parents made a single payment. When the primary permanent plan was identified as adoption, DSS filed a TPR motion. The TPR was granted, and both parents appeal the grounds and disposition. The summary focuses on the ground under G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3).
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes a TPR when a juvenile has been placed in DSS custody or foster home and the parent has willfully failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care for the six months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR despite having a physical and financial ability to do so. The cost of care is the amount it costs DSS to care for the child – foster care. A parent pays that portion that is fair, just, and equitable based on the parent’s ability/means.
  • There must be a finding that a parent has an ability to pay support. Based on precedent, a child support order is based on the amount of support necessary to meet the child’s reasonable needs and the parent’s relative ability to provide that amount. When a parent is subject to a valid child support order, “there is no requirement that petitioner independently prove or that the termination order find as fact respondent’s ability to pay support during the relevant time period.” 379 N.C. at 311. As held in In re J.M., 373 N.C. 352 (2020), the court is not required to make findings about a parent’s income, assets, and reasonable needs and expenses when there is a child support order, and employing the doctrine of stare decisis, this holding is not overruled.
  • The findings show the parent’s were employed, had income, and were not disabled, father did not make one payment as required, and mother did not make one voluntary payment as ordered. The court did not err in concluding the ground existed.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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