In re S.J.T.H., ___ N.C. App. ___, 811 S.E.2d 723 (2018)

Held: 
Reversed and remanded in part

as to dispositional order that imposes conditions on and does not award custody to respondent father

  • Facts: Child born Feb. 2017 and mother identifies one man as the father. DSS becomes involved because of mother’s prior child protective history and drug abuse and putative father’s failure to appear at child’s discharge from the hospital. In March, a second putative father, Sam, contacts DSS and offers to care for the child. In April, DSS files a petition alleging neglect and dependency and names both putative fathers. In June 2017, Sam is adjudicated the child’s father, the child is adjudicated neglected based on circumstances created by mother, and the dispositional order places the child in DSS custody and orders Sam to comply with the same 11 requirements as mother. Evidence regarding Sam is limited to his identity and paternity. Sam appeals, challenging the dispositional order as it applies to him.
  • There is no evidence or findings of fact about respondent father other than establishing his paternity. A best interests determination requires evidence about the named respondent father, such as evidence about his ability to parent or provide for the child, his home life, or why the parent cannot care for his child, so that a court may consider whether a respondent parent is unfit or has acted inconsistently with his parental rights when determining custody. Citing In re D.M., 157 N.C. App. 382 (2011), which applied to a permanency planning order awarding permanent custody to a non-parent, there  must be clear, cogent, and convincing evidence to demonstrate a parent is unfit or has acted inconsistently with his parental rights to support a disposition that does not grant a parent custody.

 

Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Disposition (All Stages Post-Adjudication)
Topic:
Parent’s Rights
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