in the Court of Appeals 6 December 2018.
by Respondent-Father from order entered 12 February 2018 by
Judge Herbert Richardson in Robeson County No. 17 JT 76
Jennifer A. Clay for Petitioner-Appellee Mother.
Richard Croutharmel for Respondent-Appellant Father.
appeal arises from a termination of parental rights action
between two parents. Respondent-father ("Father")
appeals from the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights to the minor child, I.R.L.
("Ivey"). We hold that Father did not receive
sufficient notice that his parental rights were subject to
termination and that the trial court failed to make
sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding
the willfulness of Father's conduct. Therefore, we
reverse and remand to the trial court.
("Mother") and Father were in a relationship, but
not married, when Ivey was born in February 2014. The parties
lived together from January 2015 until 31 March 2015, when
Father forced Mother to leave the home with Ivey. Mother has
had sole custody of Ivey since her birth.
April 2016, Mother obtained a domestic violence protective
order ("DVPO") against Father. According to the
DVPO, on 18 March 2016, Father went to Mother's home late
at night unannounced, banged on her door, and threatened to
kill her. Father assaulted Mother by hitting and choking her.
The DVPO was in effect for one year, until April 2017. The
DVPO ordered Father not to have any contact with Mother, but
did not forbid contact with any minor children residing with
March 2017, one month before the DVPO was set to expire,
Father filed a pro se civil complaint for visitation with
Ivey. That same day, Mother filed a petition to terminate
Father's parental rights to Ivey alleging the grounds of
failure to establish paternity, failure to pay support, and
abandonment. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7B-1111(a)(5), (4), and (7) (2017). Mother alleged Father had
not contacted or seen Ivey since March 2015 and had not paid
any financial support.
February 2018, following a hearing on the matter, the trial
court entered an order terminating Father's parental
rights to Ivey, concluding that Father had failed to pay
child support and had abandoned Ivey and that termination of
Father's parental rights was in Ivey's best
interests. Father timely appealed.
Standard of Review
review a trial court's termination of parental rights
"to determine whether clear, cogent, and convincing
evidence exists to support the court's findings of fact,
and whether the findings of fact support the court's
conclusions of law." In re C.J.H., 240 N.C.App.
489, 497, 772 S.E.2d 82, 88 (2015). When the trial
court's findings of fact "are supported by ample,
competent evidence, they are binding on appeal, even though
there may be evidence to the contrary." In re
Williamson, 91 N.C.App. 668, 674, 373 S.E.2d 317, 320
(1988). We review the trial court's conclusions of law
de novo. ...