In the last two years, the North Carolina Supreme Court has published two opinions that answer questions raised about whether a North Carolina district court has personal and/or subject matter jurisdiction to terminate the parental rights of a parent who lives outside of North Carolina. Both opinions are cases of first impression. Both opinions held that the district court had personal jurisdiction over the respondent parent. One opinion held the district court also had subject matter jurisdiction in the TPR action. Both opinions affirmed the challenged TPR orders. Both opinions overturn previous court of appeals opinions on the issues raised. Here’s what you need to know. Continue Reading
It is with great joy and enthusiasm that I am announcing these two updated resources for those of you who work in the area of child welfare.
- Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in North Carolina (Feb. 2022), otherwise known as “the A/N/D Manual” or “the Manual.”
This February 2022 edition of the Manual is now available on the SOG website, here. This edition replaces the 2019 edition. As those of you who work in this area know, the law is constantly changing either because of legislative changes or appellate opinions interpreting the law. The pace of the changes applying to this legal area is reflected by the fact that this edition was supposed to be a 2021 edition but because of North Carolina Supreme Court opinions published on February 11, 2022, it became the February 2022 edition. This February 2022 edition is current through February 15, 2022 for both appellate opinions issued by the North Carolina appellate courts (most of which are published) as well as legislative changes made through that date. The changes are so significant that you should not rely on any earlier editions of the Manual.Continue Reading
I apologize for getting that song stuck in your head. Unless you like that song, in which case enjoy.
Scenario: You represent a respondent parent in an abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D) proceeding. The permanent plan is adoption, and DSS (or your jurisdiction’s equivalent agency) filed a petition for termination of parental rights (TPR). The trial court granted the TPR. Your client intends to appeal once the written order is entered. (Note that effective July 1, 2021, appeals of TPR orders are heard by the Court of Appeals pursuant to the newly amended G.S. 7B-1001(a)(7); see S.L. 2021-18).
A trial court can enforce a TPR order while an appeal is pending unless a stay has been entered. G.S. 7B-1003(a); G.S. 1A-1, Rule 62(d). As the trial attorney, you and your client should consider seeking a stay of the TPR order pending the appeal.
Since January 1, 2019, termination of parental rights (TPR) orders are appealed directly to the North Carolina Supreme Court. In August 2019, the Supreme Court published its first appellate opinions under this new TPR appellate procedure. Between August 2019 and today, the Supreme Court has decided 134 TPR opinions, all of which are published. Each of those published opinions from our state’s highest court established or reinforced a precedent. Perhaps because of that, new and old arguments have been raised before the Supreme Court in those TPR appeals. This post focuses on what the Supreme Court has held when addressing the dispositional stage of the TPR. Continue Reading
Consider the common scenario in which a proceeding under Article 11 of G.S. Chapter 7B is filed to terminate a parent’s rights to their child. How and when an attorney is appointed for the respondent parent in a termination of parental rights proceeding (TPR), whether the attorney is provisional or confirmed, and how the attorney may withdraw, depends on a few factors. Ongoing confusion on these points has led to several appeals in recent years, including a new ruling by our Supreme Court. See In re K.M.W., 376 N.C. 195 (2020). This post reviews the governing principles under North Carolina case law and statutes. Continue Reading
North Carolina adoption laws are codified in G.S. Chapter 48. I find it to be one of the more difficult Chapters to navigate because it consists of interrelated Articles and Parts. As you get familiar with the Chapter, the procedures and requirements become less challenging to piece together. It is imperative to know these procedures because “the law governing adoptions in North Carolina is wholly statutory.” Boseman v. Jarrell, 364 N.C. 537, 542 (2010).
Under North Carolina adoption laws, before an adoption of an unemancipated minor may be granted, certain consents must be obtained. See G.S. 48-3-601 through -603. One required consent is from the minor adoptee if they are 12 years old or older. G.S. 48-3-601(1). However, that minor’s consent may be waived when the court issues an order based upon a finding that it is not in the minor’s best interests to require their consent. G.S. 48-3-603(b)(2).
What court has jurisdiction to enter the order waiving the minor adoptee’s consent?
The question is circulating due to some recent North Carolina Supreme Court opinions involving appeals of termination of parental rights (TPR) orders. The facts of the opinions indicate the district court in the TPR action waived the juvenile’s consent to the adoption. The issue of whether the district court in a TPR proceeding has subject matter jurisdiction to waive the juvenile’s consent does not appear to have been raised before or decided by the Supreme Court. Instead, the minor’s waiver of consent is discussed by the Supreme Court in its review of the facts when analyzing a challenge to the district court’s determination that the TPR is in the juvenile’s best interests. The factual summaries in the Supreme Court TPR opinions made me sit up in my chair, take notice, and ask the questions in this post. Continue Reading
In August, the North Carolina Supreme Court published its first opinion addressing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): In re E.J.B., 375 N.C. 95 (2020). Specifically, the supreme court examined the history and purpose behind Congress’s enactment of ICWA and the notice requirements that apply when a trial court knows or has reason to know the child involved in the “child custody proceeding” is an “Indian child.”
What is ICWA? Why the quotation marks? What does the opinion say? How does the opinion impact practice? Continue Reading
I am very excited to announce the availability of two new resources.
- Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in North Carolina (2019), otherwise known as “the A/N/D Manual” or “the Manual.”
If you were at the School of Government earlier today, you would have heard and seen me running down the hallway, exclaiming “it’s out, it’s out!” The 2019 edition of the A/N/D Manual is available on the SOG website, here, and it replaces the 2017 edition. This new 2019 edition is current through December 31, 2019 and incorporates opinions issued by the North Carolina appellate courts (most of which are published) through that date as well as legislative changes made through the completion of the 2019 legislative changes (which ended in January 2020).Continue Reading
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)* is a complex federal law that applies to abuse, neglect, or dependency (A/N/D); termination of parental rights (TPR); and adoption proceedings. One of the purposes of ICWA is to provide special protections to federally recognized Indian tribes and the tribes’ children and families. See 25 U.S.C. 1901‒1902.
Subject matter jurisdiction between tribal courts and state courts is governed by ICWA when an “Indian child” is the subject of the A/N/D, TPR, or adoption proceeding. When any of the criteria of 25 U.S.C. 1911(a) are met, the tribal court has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction. When that criteria do not exist, ICWA allows for concurrent jurisdiction between state and tribal courts. See 25 U.S.C. 1911(b), (c). The N.C. Court of Appeals (COA) recently published two opinions addressing subject matter jurisdiction under ICWA. In one case, the COA held that the N.C. court had jurisdiction in an adoption proceeding that involved two Indian children. In the other case, the COA remanded for further proceedings in the trial court in part to ensure the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction in the A/N/D action when it was uncertain whether the child was an “Indian child.”
A takeaway from these cases is that the N.C. court is not automatically divested of subject matter jurisdiction when an Indian child is the subject of the proceeding. But, how does the N.C. court know if it has subject matter jurisdiction? Continue Reading
The North Carolina Juvenile Code (G.S. Chapter 7B) establishes the substantive law for abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) and termination of parental rights (TPR) actions and also sets forth specific procedures. Although A/N/D and TPR cases are civil proceedings, many of the juvenile procedures differ from the general rules that apply to civil actions. One of the procedural differences applies to the district court’s jurisdiction in the underlying action when an appeal is pending. Continue Reading