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Home / Opinion Digests / Domestic Relations / Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Service of Process – Provisional Counsel

Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Service of Process – Provisional Counsel

Even though the petitioner-Father’s counsel used an outdated summons form when serving process on the respondent-Mother, the summons nonetheless included all statutorily required information. Although Mother’s provisional counsel’s name was not listed on the summons (counsel had not been appointed when the summons was issued), G.S. § 7B-1106(b)(4) does not require that provisional counsel be listed on the summons; furthermore, provisional counsel was served as required by the statute.

We affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

G.S. §§ 7B-1106 and 7B-602 require that notice be provided (1) to appointed counsel, (2) that the parent is entitled to appointed counsel, (3) that provisional counsel has been appointed, and (4) that review of the appointment of provisional counsel will occur at the first hearing after service. Between 9 March 2021 and 9 April 2021, before the first hearing, all of these requirements were satisfied. With the issuance of a legally compliant summons, the court established personal jurisdiction over Mother when that summons, and petition was personally served upon her in Nevada on 9 March 2021.

The trial court was required to make some inquiry into counsel’s efforts to contact Mother before releasing her as provisional counsel. That requirement was satisfied. The record demonstrates that Mother was personally served with the summons and petition, so she learned of the proceedings directly. Provisional counsel indicated to the trial court on 1 October 2021 that she was in communications with Mother about what was going on in the proceedings, was in settlement talks with opposing counsel, and was aware Mother would not be present at the last hearing due to financial constraints. Finally, the trial court explicitly inquired of provisional counsel at the adjudication hearing as to the status of communications with Mother, and provisional counsel answered.

The purpose of the appointment of provisional counsel is to ensure a respondent-parent’s rights are adequately protected for termination proceedings. And at the adjudication hearing, the trial court must consider whether provisional counsel must be retained or released, should the respondent parent fail to appear. On this record, the trial court made the requisite inquiry into the communication and overtures effectuated, and the court determined that counsel made adequate efforts to make Mother aware of her rights in the termination proceedings before releasing provisional counsel when Mother was not present.


In re C.T.T. (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-037-23, 11 pp.) (Allison Riggs, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court (Roy Wiggins, J.) Bethany Mulhern and Nicholas Cushing for petitioner; Annick Lenoir-Peek and Daniel Gibson for respondent. N.C. App.

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