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Back September 11, 2019

Terminating Parental Rights in North Carolina

Termination of Parental Rights in North Carolina

As you might imagine, Termination of Parental Rights is the absolute nullification of a parent or legal guardian’s rights to the care, custody and control of a child. The following is a general outline of how to obtain a Termination of Parental Rights in North Carolina. This information is not to be construed as legal advice.

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

The law, specifically, North Carolina General Statute 7B-1111, allows for the termination of the parental rights of a parent for several reasons including but not limited to the parent’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, failure to support and incapacity to provide proper care and supervision of a child. In such scenarios, the other parent, a person seeking to adopt the child, or a government agency such as a county department of social services (DSS) with custody of the child may petition a court to terminate the parent’s parental rights.

The Process

Upon the filing of a petition to terminate a parent’s parental rights, the law provides that a court must schedule and hold a hearing consisting of an adjudicatory stage and a dispositional stage. In the adjudicatory stage the petitioner must prove the existence of at least one of the aforementioned scenarios or others not previously discussed, by clear, cogent and convincing evidence. In the dispositional stage, the petitioner must prove that termination of the parent’s parental rights are in the best interests of the child. This stage does not carry an evidentiary burden for the petitioner to meet, such as the adjudicatory stage’s burden to prove at least one ground for termination by clear, cogent and convincing evidence. The dispositional stage requires that the court make a discretionary determination regarding the child’s best interest. While this may not sound difficult to some, it is important that you seek the assistance of a licensed family law attorney because this is a very serious matter for the courts as this procedure involves the courts terminating a fundamental right of an individual that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Fourteenth Amendment Right to the Care and Custody of One’s Child

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has recognized a fundamental liberty interest of natural parents under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in the care, custody, and management of their children. Generally, the Constitution and SCOTUS require that the government provide procedural due process to individuals whom the government intends to deprive of a fundamental right. In Santosky v. Kramer, U.S. (1982), SCOTUS mandated that before a State may sever the parental rights of a parent, due process must be given to the parent whereby the State must support its allegations for grounds for termination by at least clear and convincing evidence. Because of the constitutional implications involved in termination of parental rights matters, North Carolina courts frequently provide respondent parents with court-appointed lawyers as provided by statute when the court believes that such respondent parents are indigent and unable to afford counsel.

Effects of a Termination Order

North Carolina General Statute 7B-1112, provides that an order terminating the parental rights of a parent completely and permanently terminate all rights and obligations of the parent to the juvenile and of the juvenile to the parent arising from the parental relationship, except that the juvenile’s right of inheritance from the juvenile’s parent shall not terminate until a final order of adoption is issued. (If an adoption of the child is sought). The parent is not thereafter entitled to notice of proceedings to adopt the juvenile and may not object thereto or otherwise participate therein. However, parental rights may be reinstated under certain scenarios.

This blog is not to be construed as legal advice. For more information, we strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a licensed North Carolina Family Law Attorney. To schedule a consultation today, contact Panchenko Law Firm, PLLC.

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