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Courts generally don’t terminate parental rights unless there is a strong reason to do so. The petition to terminate parental rights is normally brought by the State through its Department of Child Services, or by guardian ad litem, but parents may seek to terminate their co-parents’ parental rights, too.

The grounds for termination of parental rights in North Carolina include the following:

  • Abuse or neglect of a juvenile
  • The parent has willfully left the juvenile in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months, and there haven’t been sufficient signs to show a reconnection is likely
  • Failure of a parent to pay the reasonable cost of care, for at least six months, for a child who has been placed with a social services department, a foster home, or other qualifying institutions or agencies
  • Failure of a noncustodial parent to pay child support for at least one year
  • A father of a child who was born out of wedlock hasn’t filed paternity papers or taken other necessary steps to legitimize the child
  • The parent is shown to be incapable of caring for the child and will be incapable for a substantial time in the future
  • Willful abandonment
  • Other statutory reasons

Courts are very cautious about terminating a parent’s rights because, generally, having both parents in the life of a child is in the best interest of the child. This caution includes ensuring that every effort in the initial termination proceeding is made to notify the parent of the termination proceeding, and that the parent is given a fair hearing where his/her testimony can be presented along with relevant evidence.

Review of custody order

North Carolina Statute § 7B-906 requires that “in any case where custody is removed from a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker the court shall conduct a review hearing within 90 days from the date of the dispositional hearing and shall conduct a review hearing within six months thereafter.” In some cases, the court may waive the review hearings – unless a party (such as the parent whose rights were terminated) seeks a review hearing.

Appealing a termination of rights order, and reinstating parental rights in NC

Once a parent’s rights are terminated and the review hearings have been held, that parent can no longer participate in the child’s upbringing. In most cases, the parent whose rights have been terminated will no longer be allowed to spend time with the child, either. However, a parent can appeal the termination of parental rights, either through the appellate courts or, as of January 1, 2019, at the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Arguments on appeal of a TPR generally include:

  • The lower court did not have jurisdiction
  • The parent was not properly served
  • The decision to terminate parental rights was wrong as a matter of law

A parent may also file a motion to have his or her parental rights reinstated if the child if:

  • “The child is at least age 12 or, if the child is younger than 12, the motion alleges extraordinary circumstances requiring consideration of the motion.
  • The child does not have a legal parent, is not in an adoptive placement, and is not likely to be adopted within a reasonable period of time.
  • The order terminating parental rights was entered at least 3 years before the filing of the motion, unless the child’s permanent plan is no longer adoption.”

A judge may then decide to either allow for an order of visitation, or for supervised custody. A decision must be made regarding reinstatement within 12 months of the filing.

If you have been notified that your parental rights may be terminated, or if your rights have already been terminated, the experienced family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC, are ready to fight for you. We work to show that the grounds for termination don’t apply to your situation and that you are filing a timely response or appeal. For help with any parental rights or any custody case, make an appointment in our Charlotte, Boone or Weddington office by calling 704-321-0031 or filling out our contact page. We’ll fight to reconnect you with your child.