In re Z.A.M., 374 N.C. 88 (2020)

  • Facts: In 2017, the children were adjudicated neglected and dependent. In 2018, the permanency planning order identified adoption and guardianship as the concurrent permanent plans. DSS filed a motion to terminate the parents’ rights on the grounds of neglect and failure to make reasonable progress to correct the conditions. After finding both grounds existed, the court determined it was in the children’s best interests to terminate parental rights to allow the grandparents, who were the children’s placement provider, to adopt the children. Respondents appeal. Mother argues the standard of review should be de novo.
  • The standard of review of a best interests determination is an abuse of discretion. In response to mother’s argument that the review should be de novo, the supreme court reaffirmed the abuse of discretion standard. The appellate court looks to whether the trial court’s decision is “manifestly unsupported by reason or one so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision.” Sl.Op. at 17. The trial court, which hears the evidence, is in the best position to assess and weigh that evidence, make findings, and reach conclusions based on that evidence.
  • There was no abuse of discretion.The trial court considered the dispositional factors in G.S. 7B-1110 and performed a reasoned analysis in weighing those factors. Although finding there was a strong bond between the children and respondent parents, that factor was outweighed by the findings addressing the primary plan of adoption, the children’s relationship with their grandmother, and likelihood of adoption by the grandmother.
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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