pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7B-1001(a1)(1) from an order
entered 13 December 2019 by Judge Monica M. Bousman in
District Court, Wake County. This matter was calendared in
the Supreme Court on 11 September 2019 but determined on the
records and briefs without oral argument pursuant to Rule
30(f) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Manning, Fulton & Skinner, P.A., by Michael S. Harrell,
Thomas Diepenrock for respondent-appellant father.
appeals from the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights to his minor child, C.B.C. (Catherine),
the grounds of neglect and willful abandonment. We affirm.
is the biological father of Catherine and petitioners are the
maternal grandparents. In 2010, respondent and
Catherine's biological mother, J.F., were involved in a
relationship when J.F. became pregnant with Catherine. In
March 2011, before Catherine's birth, respondent was
convicted of felony theft charges and began serving a 15
gave birth to Catherine on 26 June 2011, and moved in with
petitioners in July 2011. During respondent's
incarceration, J.F. brought Catherine to visit him in prison
"a few" times, and she sent him pictures of
Catherine. Respondent finished serving his sentence in June
his release, respondent had limited visitation with Catherine
until J.F. passed away from a suspected accidental drug
overdose on 7 July 2012. Following J.F's death,
respondent and petitioners became involved in a custody
dispute, and petitioners were granted temporary custody of
Catherine, with respondent having visitation. On 19 November
2015, the trial court entered a permanent child custody order
granting petitioners legal and physical custody of Catherine
and ordering that respondent have no right to visitation. At
the time the order was entered, respondent was incarcerated
for felony breaking and entering and misdemeanor assault and
had a projected release date of 16 October 2016. In the
decretal section of the custody order, the trial court
provided that respondent may petition the court for
visitation after his release from incarceration as long as he
could demonstrate to the court that his ongoing substance
abuse and mental health issues had been appropriately
addressed. The custody order also provided that respondent
may continue to communicate in writing with Catherine, and
that petitioners "shall deliver all appropriate
communications" to Catherine.
March 2016, petitioners filed a petition to terminate
respondent's parental rights alleging the grounds of
dependency and willful abandonment. See N.C. G.S.
§ 7B-1111(a)(6) and (7) (2017). Respondent participated
in the hearing held 13 July 2017 and opposed the termination
of his parental rights. On 21 September 2017, the trial court
entered an order denying the petition. The trial court found
that respondent "ha[d] consistently attempted to assert
custodial rights with respect to [Catherine] and ha[d]
consistently desired to maintain a relationship with
her." The trial court also found that there was no
evidence that respondent's substance abuse issues
rendered him incapable of providing for Catherine's care,
and that respondent's "periodic imprisonments [did]
not constitute a 'disability' or clear, cogent and
convincing evidence of incapability."
August 2017, respondent was charged with multiple felonies,
including larceny of firearms and breaking and entering.
Respondent spent approximately three weeks in jail before he
posted bond. He remained out of jail from September 2017
through March 2018. In April 2018, respondent pled guilty to
multiple felonies resulting from the August 2017 charges, and
began serving his active sentence. Respondent's projected
release date is in April 2022.
filed a second petition to terminate respondent's
parental rights on 12 June 2018 alleging the grounds of
neglect, dependency, and willful abandonment. See
N.C. G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(1), (6), and (7). Following a 30
October 2018 hearing, the trial court entered an order on 13
December 2018, finding that grounds existed to terminate
respondent's parental rights based on neglect and willful
abandonment, and that termination was in Catherine's best
interests. Accordingly, the trial court terminated
respondent's parental rights. Respondent gave timely
notice of appeal to this Court pursuant to N.C. G.S.
§§ 7A-27(a)(5) and 7B-1001(a1)(1) (2017).
Juvenile Code provides for a two-stage process for the
termination of parental rights. N.C. G.S. §§
7B-1109, -1110 (2017). At the adjudicatory stage, the
petitioner bears the burden of proving by "clear,
cogent, and convincing evidence" the existence of one or
more grounds for termination under section 7B-1111(a) of the
General Statutes. N.C. G.S. § 7B-1109(f). "If [the
trial court] determines that one or more grounds listed in
section 7B-1111 are present, the court proceeds to the
dispositional stage, at which the court must consider whether
it is in the best interests of the juvenile to terminate
parental rights." In re D.L.W., 368 N.C. 835,
842, 788 S.E.2d 162, 167 (2016) (citing In re Young,
346 N.C. 244, 247, 485 S.E.2d 612, 614–15 (1997); N.C.
G.S. § 7B-1110).
review a trial court's adjudication under N.C. G.S.
§ 7B-1109 "to determine whether the findings are
supported by clear, cogent and convincing evidence and the
findings support the conclusions of law." In re
Montgomery, 311 N.C. 101, 111, 316 S.E.2d 246, 253
(1984) (citation omitted). The trial court's conclusions
of law are reviewable de novo on appeal. In re S.N.,
194 N.C.App. 142, 146, 669 S.E.2d 55, 59 (2008),
aff'd per curiam, 363 N.C. 368, 677 S.E.2d 455
(2009) (citation omitted).
first argues that the trial court erred in concluding grounds
existed to terminate his parental rights based on ...