In re Z.G.J., 378 N.C. 500 (2021)

Affirmed in Part
Reversed in Part
There is a dissent
Barringer, J. joined by Newby J. and Berger, J.
  • Facts: The juvenile was adjudicated abused and neglected. DSS filed a TPR petition alleging 4 grounds. The social worker was the only witness at the TPR hearing, testifying she adopted the allegations in the TPR petition as her testimony. The petition was entered in evidence without objection, and no cross-examination of the social worker was conducted. At disposition, mother testified. The court granted the TPR on all 4 grounds. Mother appeals, arguing the court relied on the pleading as its only evidence and challenging all 4 grounds.
  • G.S. 7B-1109(e) requires the trial court to “ ‘take evidence [and[ find the facts” necessary to support its determination of whether the alleged grounds for termination exist.” 378 N.C. at 506. The petitioner has the burden of proof by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.
  • The trial court conducted a proper adjudicatory hearing. Although the adjudicatory hearing was brief, it consisted of oral testimony, which distinguishes this case from court of appeals’ decisions that reversed juvenile orders that were based solely on documentary evidence. As the court of appeals recognized in In re A.M., 192 N.C. App. 538 (2000), there must be some oral testimony but extensive testimony is not required; the trial court may continue to rely on properly admitted documentary evidence. The oral testimony reaffirmed under oath the allegations from the TPR petition, and mother chose not to cross-examine the only witness. There was no error when the court relied on the testimony that adopted the allegations of the TPR petition.
Termination of Parental Rights
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