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Home / Opinion Digests / Domestic Relations / Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Civil Practice – Judgments – Oral Announcement & Written Order – Additional Ground

Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Civil Practice – Judgments – Oral Announcement & Written Order – Additional Ground

In re O.D.S. (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-184-16, 21 pp.) (Linda McGee, C.J.) Appealed from Orange County District Court (Beverly Scarlett, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: When the trial court announced in open court its decision to terminate respondent’s parental rights, the court did not mention the ground of dependency; however, since the petition raised the issues of neglect and dependency and since both grounds were considered at the termination hearing, the trial court properly addressed the ground of dependency in its written order.

We affirm the termination of respondent’s parental rights.

The announcement of judgment in open court is the mere rendering of judgment and is subject to change before entry of judgment. A judgment is entered when it is reduced to writing, signed by the judge, and filed with the clerk of court.

This court has continually held that a notice of appeal from a judgment rendered in open court will not vest jurisdiction in this court until that judgment is entered – meaning until a written judgment, generally conforming with the judgment rendered, is filed with the appropriate clerk. The logical continuation of the reasoning of this holding is that jurisdiction will not vest in this court if notice of appeal is given after oral rendering of the judgment but before entry of the judgment if the written judgment entered does not generally comply with the judgment rendered in open court. This is an issue of appellate jurisdiction, not a limitation on what the trial court may include in its written order.

Though it does not appear that this court has directly addressed this issue, it follows that an appellant must file a written notice of appeal from the written and entered judgment, even if that appellant has already filed a written notice of appeal from the orally rendered judgment, if the written and entered judgment does not generally comply with the earlier rendered judgment.

However, the present case does not include any issues related to our jurisdiction or the validity or timeliness of the notice of appeal. Respondent filed his notice of appeal following the entry of the order terminating his parental rights, so there was no requirement, for purposes of appellate jurisdiction, that the order entered Aug. 11, 2015, generally conform with the order rendered in open court on July 16, 2015.

We can find no opinion in which it has been held that the written judgment must always generally conform with a prior oral rendition of that judgment in order to be valid. However, there are plenary opinions in which our appellate courts have affirmed entered orders and judgments that do not conform to the associated orally rendered orders and judgments.

As a general proposition, the written order or judgment controls over an oral rendition of that order or judgment.

Here, the trial court did not directly contradict itself. Instead, the trial court was silent on the ground of dependency at the end of the trial, apparently unaware of its omission. Neither party alerted the trial court to the omission.

No judgment had been entered at that time; therefore, no party was bound by the judgment. The judgment entered, by filing of the written order terminating respondent’s parental rights, included both grounds for termination argued at trial: neglect and dependency. Respondent properly noticed appeal from this entered judgment. On these facts, we hold that the trial court was not bound by its oversight in rendering judgment, and that the written order controls.

The trial court was not precluded from finding dependency as a ground for terminating respondent’s parental rights even though it did not include that ground when it rendered the judgment in open court.

Affirmed.


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