In re T.H., ___ N.C. App. ___ (June 18, 2019)

  • Facts: This TPR arises from an underlying action where the two children were adjudicated neglected and dependent related to their parents’ substance use, mental health issues, and criminal charges. The TPR was granted on the grounds of neglect and willful failure to make reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to the children’s removal. Respondent mother appeals the disposition only, which concluded that the TPR is in the children’s best interests.
  • Best Interests and Standard of Review: After an adjudication of at least one ground to terminate parental rights, the court proceeds to disposition, which is based on whether the TPR is in the child’s best interests by considering factors in G.S. 7B-1110. The standard of review is an abuse of discretion, which is when “the court’s ruling is manifestly unsupported by reason or is so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision.” Sl. Op. 5. Here, there was no abuse of discretion as the court’s order reflects it properly considered the required factors and made a reasoned best interests determination.
  • Best Interests Findings:
    • Findings under G.S. 7B-906.2(b) addressing reunification efforts apply to permanency planning hearings and not termination of parental rights proceedings, which are governed by Article 11 of G.S. Chapter 7B. The finding that the TPR is necessary to accomplish the best permanent plan of adoption satisfies G.S. 7B-1110(a)(3).
    • When considering any other relevant factor (G.S. 7B-1110(a)(6)), the trial court exercised its discretion when determining the mother’s claim of recent sobriety was outweighed by her years of unaddressed substance use as it is “the trial judge’s duty to weigh and consider all competent evidence, and pass upon the credibility of the witnesses, the weight to be given their testimony and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefore.” Sl. Op. at 7. Additionally, G.S. 7B-1110 does not require the court to make findings on all of the evidence presented but instead requires written findings of relevant factors. “A factor is relevant if there is conflicting evidence concerning the factor that is placed in issue.” Sl. Op. at 9. Without conflicting evidence concerning DSS’s efforts to contact mother while she was incarcerated, no findings were required.
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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