Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re A.U.D.

Supreme Court of North Carolina

September 27, 2019

In the MATTER OF A.U.D. and A.X.D.

Page 699

          Appeal pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7B-1001(a1)(1) from an order entered on 20 December 2018 by Judge Donald Cureton Jr. in District Court, Mecklenburg County. This matter was calendared in the Supreme Court on 11 September 2019 but determined on the record and briefs without oral argument pursuant to Rule 30(f) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         Heyward Wall Law, P.A., Garner, by Heyward G. Wall, for petitioner-appellant Bethany Christian Services.

         Edward Eldred for respondent-appellee father.

          OPINION

         DAVIS, Justice.

          This case involves a private termination of parental rights proceeding initiated by petitioner Bethany Christian Services (BCS) against respondent-father. In this appeal, we consider whether the trial court erred by declining to terminate respondent’s parental rights to his children based on its determination that termination would not be in the best interests of the children. Because we conclude that the trial court’s ruling was within its discretion, we affirm.

          Factual and Procedural Background

         Tanya[1] and respondent began a relationship in 2016, and Tanya became pregnant with twin girls, Amy and Ann (collectively, the children), shortly thereafter. The parties never married, and their relationship ended prior to the children’s birth. In September 2016, Tanya falsely informed respondent that she had miscarried and ended contact with him. In January 2017, respondent encountered Tanya at the hospital where she worked and noticed that she appeared to be pregnant. However, respondent did not ask her about the pregnancy.

         Respondent pled guilty to being a habitual felon in February 2017 after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill or inflict serious injury.[2] While incarcerated, respondent learned that Tanya was, in fact, pregnant and due to deliver in May 2017. In April 2017, respondent wrote to North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services for assistance in establishing paternity. Per its instructions, he attempted to submit a complaint and affidavit of parentage with Mecklenburg County Child Support Enforcement, but the documents were never actually filed with the clerk of court.

          After the children’s birth in May 2017, Tanya initially cared for them. In June 2017, however, she placed them in the care of Sarah, the children’s maternal aunt. On 3 August 2017, Tanya relinquished her parental rights to the children to BCS, an adoption agency. Later that month, Tanya visited Sarah’s home with two social workers, who proceeded to take custody of the children. Shortly thereafter, Sarah obtained emergency custody of the children in District Court, Mecklenburg County. BCS filed a motion to intervene in the custody action and was awarded custody. BCS subsequently placed the children with a prospective adoptive family, where they have lived through the present date.

Page 700

          On 28 August 2017, BCS filed a petition to terminate respondent’s parental rights in District Court, Wake County on the grounds of neglect, failure to legitimate, and dependency. See N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(1), (5), (6) (2017). Respondent then sought an adjudication of paternity and filed an answer to BCS’s petition. The results of respondent’s DNA test showed a 99.99% probability of paternity as to the children. Respondent also executed an affidavit of parentage. On 18 May 2018, the court entered an order declaring him to be the children’s father. In August 2018, the court granted respondent’s motion to change venue, and the termination of parental rights matter was moved to Mecklenburg County.

          A hearing on the petition to terminate respondent’s parental rights was held before the Honorable Donald Cureton Jr. on 7 December 2018 in District Court, Mecklenburg County. At the hearing, the trial court heard testimony from respondent, Tanya, Sarah, the children’s guardian ad litem, and the prospective adoptive parents.

         On 20 December 2018, the trial court entered an order in which it concluded that although a ground existed to terminate respondent’s parental rights under N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(5), termination was not in the best interests of the children. Accordingly, the trial court denied BCS’s petition. BCS gave timely notice of appeal to this Court.

          Analysis

         In this appeal, BCS argues that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact in its 20 December 2018 order and abused its discretion when it determined that termination of respondent’s parental rights was not in the best interests of the children. Our Juvenile Code provides for a two-stage process for the termination of parental rights— an adjudicatory stage and a dispositional stage. 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). We 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).

         Here, the trial court determined that there was sufficient evidence presented to terminate respondent’s parental rights pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(5). Neither party has challenged this portion of the trial court’s ruling, and this issue is therefore not before us.

         If a trial court finds one or more grounds to terminate parental rights under N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a), it then proceeds to the dispositional stage. N.C.G.S. § 7B-1110(a) states, in pertinent part, as follows:

After an adjudication that one or more grounds for terminating a parent’s rights exist, the court shall determine whether terminating the parent’s rights is in the juvenile’s best interest ... In each case, the court shall consider the following criteria and make written findings regarding the following that are relevant:
(1) The age of the juvenile.
(2) The likelihood of adoption of the juvenile.
(3) Whether the termination of parental rights will aid in the accomplishment of the permanent plan for the juvenile.
(4) The bond between the juvenile and the parent.
(5) The quality of the relationship between the juvenile and the proposed adoptive parent, guardian, custodian, or other permanent placement.
(6) Any relevant ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.