In re S.M.M., 374 N.C. 911 (2020)

  • Facts: DSS obtained an order terminating respondent mother’s rights. She appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the ground but concluded the disposition did not address the juvenile’s likelihood of adoption. The case was remanded to the trial court to make findings of this statutory factor. On remand, respondent filed a motion to reopen evidence to show a change in circumstances. The motion was denied and the court entered an amended order with new findings of fact. Mother appeals arguing the trial court could not comply with the mandate without reopening the evidence.
  • A trial court must strictly follow the mandate. The mandate was for additional findings not for a new dispositional hearing. The appellate decision was silent as to whether the trial court should take new evidence when the case was remanded for additional findings. As such, the trial court had discretion to determine whether it should take new evidence on remand, and it was not required to do so. There was nothing in mother’s motion that identified specific changes that would impact the issue of the likelihood of the juvenile’s adoption. Speculation of changed facts over an 18-month period is insufficient to show the trial court abused its discretion. The trial court was able to make the required findings from the evidence presented at the original hearing and thus the trial court complied with the mandate.
Termination of Parental Rights
Remand Instructions
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