In re Z.L.W., 372 N.C. 432 (2019)

  • Respondent father’s rights to his 2 children were terminated; both children had previously been adjudicated neglected and had a primary permanent plan of adoption. Father appeals the TPR, arguing the court abused its discretion when determining the TPR was in the children’s best interests despite finding there was a strong bond between the respondent and children.
  • After a ground to TPR has been found, the court proceeds to the dispositional phase which considers factors under G.S. 7B-1110(a) when determining if the TPR is in the child’s best interests. 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. at 5-6.
  • The court made findings about the children’s ages, likelihood of adoption, need to achieve the permanent plan of adoption, bond with the respondent father, quality of relationship with the prospective adoptive parents, and other factors, none of which were challenged and are therefore binding on appeal.
  • Although the court made a finding that the children had a strong bond with respondent father, that factor is just one that must be considered under G.S. 7B-1110(a). The court may give more weight to the other factors, and the “court’s determination that other factors outweighed respondent’s strong bond with [the children] was not manifestly unsupported by reason.” Sl. Op. at 9. In response to father’s argument that other dispositional alternatives should have been considered so that a relationship with father could be maintained, G.S. 7B-100(5) states “the best interests of the juvenile are of paramount consideration by the court and … when it is not in the juvenile’s best interest to be returned home, the juvenile will be placed in a safe, permanent home within a reasonable amount of time.” (emphasis in opinion).
Termination of Parental Rights
Best Interests Findings
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