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In re T.E.N.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 4, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: T.E.N.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 20 March 2017.

         Appeal by respondent from order entered 29 April 2016 by Judge Randle L. Jones in Guilford County, No. 15 JT 102 District Court.

          Petitioner-appellee mother, pro se.

          Robert W. Ewing for respondent-appellant father.

          TYSON, Judge.

         Respondent-father ("Respondent") appeals from an order terminating his parental rights to his child, T.E.N. We vacate the trial court's order for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. Factual Background

         In 2005, Respondent and petitioner-mother ("Petitioner") began a relationship. T.E.N. was born out of wedlock in May 2009 in Brick, New Jersey. Respondent and Petitioner lived together until July or August 2009, when Petitioner moved into a women's shelter with T.E.N.

         According to trial testimony, Petitioner obtained domestic violence protective orders against Respondent during the course of their relationship. In September 2009, Petitioner obtained a restraining order prohibiting contact by Respondent. The order also provided "parenting time" or visitation for Respondent with T.E.N. These orders were neither introduced into evidence at the termination hearing nor made part of the record on appeal.

         On 26 October 2011, Petitioner sought and received a Final Restraining Order, barring Respondent from her residence, place of employment, and barring Respondent from having contact with Petitioner or her friend, K.O. The order was issued from the Ocean County Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part ("New Jersey court"), and grants Petitioner temporary custody of T.E.N. On 12 February 2012, the New Jersey court issued an Amended Final Restraining Order, which barred Respondent from being present at T.E.N.'s daycare facility. The Amended Order provides for supervised visitation with the assistance of Respondent's mother.

         At some point in 2013, Petitioner sought permission from the New Jersey court to relocate with T.E.N. to North Carolina. In July 2013, the New Jersey court granted Petitioner's request. Petitioner moved to North Carolina in August 2013. Respondent continues to reside in New Jersey.

         In October 2013, Respondent sought modification of his visitation arrangement with T.E.N. before the New Jersey court. The court's order, made part of the record on appeal, indicates the court modified the visitation arrangement of a 25 July 2013 order and denied reconsideration of a 28 August 2013 court order. Pursuant to the October order, Respondent was allowed one weekend per month of unsupervised visitation with his son. The parties were ordered to alternate the transportation of T.E.N. between North Carolina and New Jersey. Petitioner was ordered to provide the transportation for the first visit. After this initial visit, Respondent did not visit his son again.

         On 6 January 2015, Petitioner filed a petition to terminate Respondent's parental rights. The petition alleged as grounds to terminate that: (1) Respondent willfully abandoned the juvenile; and (2) Petitioner had custody of the juvenile and Respondent failed without justification to pay for the care, support, and education of the juvenile as required by the custody agreement, for a period of one year or more preceding the filing of the petition. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(4), (7) (2015). Following a hearing, the trial court found the existence of willful abandonment on 29 April 2016 and entered an order terminating Respondent's parental rights. Respondent filed written notice of appeal on 12 May 2016.

         III. Subject ...


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