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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Incarcerated Father – Insufficient Efforts

In re C.L.S. (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-031-16, 14 pp.) (Linda McGee, C.J.) (John Tyson, J., dissenting) Appealed from New Hanover County District Court (J.H. Corpening II, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Although the respondent was incarcerated shortly after learning that he was the child’s father, since a social worker unsuccessfully tried to get respondent to pursue a plan of reunification, to enter into a visitation plan, and to enter into a case plan, and since respondent never provided any financial support for the child or even met the child, respondent failed to provide love, support, affection or personal contact to the child. The evidence supports the trial court’s conclusion that the child was neglected by respondent.

We affirm the termination of respondent’s parental rights.

Dissent

(Tyson, J.) I do not find the testimony of the social worker that, after respondent was incarcerated, he indicated he wished to enter a case plan, wanted his attorney’s review and input before he signed, and that she never received it to be clear, cogent or convincing evidence to support a failure to provide love, support, affection and personal contact to the child. Therefore, I address respondent’s remaining arguments.

Since the petition to terminate respondent’s parental rights was filed only five months after he learned that he was the child’s father, the trial court erred by concluding that respondent had “willfully left” the child in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months.

Although G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(5) authorizes termination where the father has not legitimated or supported the child prior to the filing of the petition, the trial court must make specific findings as to each of the five subsections (a through e). The trial court’s conclusion that grounds for termination exist under § 7B-1111(a)(5) is not supported by the requisite findings based upon clear, cogent and convincing evidence.

I would reverse.


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