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 TPR hearing was held 13 months after the TPR petition was filed. The only evidence at adjudication was the social worker’s testimony that reaffirmed the allegations in the TPR petition. The TPR was granted on all 4 grounds. Mother appeals, raising standing, an improper adjudicatory hearing, and the 4 grounds. This summary focuses on the grounds, where mother argues the evidence did not support the findings, and the findings did not support the conclusions.
  • G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) authorizes a TPR on the ground of a parent willfully failing to pay a reasonable cost of the child’s care for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the TPR petition when having an ability to do so. The findings on the ground include mother’s employment at times during the case (which covers a 18 month time period), her being able bodied, her paying zero child support while the child was in care, and that zero is not a reasonable amount. The findings do not adequately address the determinative 6-month period.
  • Dissent: The lack of a court order or child support order regarding the cost of care is not required for G.S. 7B-1111(a)(3) as this court previously held a parent has an inherent duty to support their children. A finding that a parent has never paid for the cost of a child’s care encompasses the determinative 6-month period. An express reference to the 6-month period is not required when the plain language and context of the findings encompass the period. This case is distinguishable from In re K.H., 375 N.C. 610 (2020), which involved a minor parent, who at times was placed in the same home as the juvenile, and had turned 18 shortly before the TPR hearing.
Termination of Parental Rights
Failure to Pay Reasonable Cost of Care
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