In re S.M., 375 N.C. 673 (2020)

  • Facts: The six children had been adjudicated neglected based on dirty conditions in the home, poor hygiene, lack of schooling, domestic violence, and substance abuse. A case plan addressing these issues, the need for a mental health assessment, and a psychosexual evaluation by father due to allegations of sexual abuse of one of the children was ordered. After the parents’ noncompliance with the case plan, DSS filed TPR petitions alleging neglect and failure to correct the conditions. The TPR was granted, and both parents appeal challenging the best interests determination regarding one of the children. Father also challenges the court’s denial of his motion to continue the hearing. Mother challenges the grounds as well.
  • Standard of review for the dispositional stage regarding best interests is whether the trial court abused its discretion. Dispositional findings must be supported by competent evidence.
  • Some of the challenged findings of fact are not supported by evidence and those portions are disregarded. The GAL report was not admitted into evidence but was instead distributed to the parties and the court, and the GAL did not testify. There in no competent evidence to support the court’s consideration of the GAL recommendations.
  • G.S. 7B-1110(a) requires the court to consider all the factors but make written findings of only those factors where there is conflicting evidence such that it is an issue that is presented to the trial court. The exact language of the statute is not required. The court made the appropriate findings.
  • Although the juvenile has mental health issues, this case is distinguishable from In re J.A.O., 166 N.C. App. 222 (2004). This juvenile’s issues were less severe; mother in this case did not make reasonable progress; and there is a pre-adoptive family will to adopt all six children, including this juvenile. There was no abuse of discretion.
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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