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
The court of appeals recently reversed a trial court decision that a judgment terminating a mother’s parental rights voided a court order entered five years earlier granting her mother visitation with her grandchild. In Adams v. Langdon, (NC App March 19, 2019), the court of appeals held that the termination of the mother’s rights had no impact on the visitation rights the trial court ordered for grandmother before mother’s rights were terminated.
On January 1, 2019, the process to appeal abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) and termination of parental rights (TPR) orders designated in G.S. 7B-1001 changed significantly. Amendments to G.S. 7B-1001 now require that some orders be appealed directly to the NC Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals (COA). Other orders have new notice of appeal and timing requirements. Amendments to the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure (Rules) also became effective on January 1st and impact appeals of all orders including those designated in G.S. 7B-1001.
Last week, I attended the Supreme Court’s CLE program, “Information about Termination of Parental Rights Cases and the Rules of Appellate Procedure.” As I listened to the justices and other speakers, I started to hear David Bowie singing “ch-ch-ch-changes.” There are a lot of changes and procedures that you need to know. Continue Reading
I am so happy to announce the availability of the 2017 Manual — Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in North Carolina.
What’s In It?
This Manual provides easily accessible information about the laws, procedures, and concepts related to abuse, neglect, dependency, and termination of parental rights proceedings in North Carolina. The primary intended audience consists of district court judges, social services attorneys, parents’ attorneys, and guardian ad litem attorney advocates who work in this area of the law.
This 2017 edition is a significant revision of the previous edition (2015) and contains hundreds of pages of new content. It includes changes made to the Juvenile Code by the North Carolina General Assembly in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 sessions as well as appellate decisions published through October 1, 2017. The new content discusses a variety of topics including mandatory concurrent permanency planning, cessation of reasonable efforts and the elimination of reunification as a permanent plan, medical decision-making for a child placed in DSS custody, the reasonable and prudent parent standard, and Foster Care 18−21.
There are nine new checklists that supplement the chapter content and incorporate the legislative changes that apply to the various hearings in abuse, neglect, dependency, and related termination of parental rights proceedings. Before you bypass the chapters to get to the checklists, explore the Manual to see what is in there. Continue Reading