North Carolina Termination of Parental Rights Appeal Cases
Section 27-20-44(1), N.D.C.C., provides for termination of parental rights:
The court by order may terminate the parental rights of a parent with respect to the parent's child if:
a. the parent has abandoned the child;
b. the child is a deprived child and the court finds:
(1) the conditions and causes of the deprivation are likely to continue or will not be remedied and that by reason thereof the child is suffering or will probably suffer serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional harm;
(2) the child has been in foster care, in the care, custody, and control of the department, or a county social service board, or, in cases arising out of an adjudication by the juvenile court that a child is an unruly child, the division of juvenile services, for at least four hundred fifty out of the previous six hundred sixty nights.
Under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(8)(a), a deprived child is a child who "is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health, or morals, and the deprivation is not due primarily to the lack of financial means of the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian."
The State must prove the elements for termination of parental rights by clear and convincing evidence. In re R.O., 2001 ND 137, P10, 631 N.W.2d 159. Effective March 1, 2004, N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a) was amended to provide that findings of fact in juvenile matters shall not be set aside on appeal unless clearly erroneous. In re Adoption of S.R.F., 2004 ND 150, P7, 683 N.W.2d 913.
on appeal, the complaining party has the burden of showing that findings of fact are clearly erroneous. Striefel v. Striefel, 2004 ND 210, P8, 689 N.W.2d 415.
A trial court's findings of fact are presumptively correct, and on appeal we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the findings, without reweighing the evidence or reassessing credibility if there is evidence supporting the findings. Id. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a) if there is no evidence to support it, if it is clear to the reviewing court that a mistake has been made, or if the finding is induced by an erroneous view of the law." In re T.J.L., 2004 ND 142, P2, 682 N.W.2d 735.
In determining if the causes and conditions of deprivation will continue or will not be remedied, there must be prognostic evidence forming the basis for reasonable prediction of continued or future deprivation. In re E.R., 2004 ND 202, P7, 688 N.W.2d 384; In re D.Q., 2002 ND 188, P21, 653 N.W.2d 713. Any prediction of the future requires some reflection upon the past conduct of the parties.
In re T.F., 2004 ND 126, P19, 681 N.W.2d 786; In re D.Q., at P21. a lack of parental cooperation with social service agencies is pertinent to determining if deprivation will continue.
In re T.F., at P19; In re B.N., 2003 ND 68, P23, 660 N.W.2d 610; In re D.Q., at P21. "Evidence of a parent's background, including previous incidents of abuse and deprivation, may be considered in determining whether deprivation is likely to continue".
In re T.F., at P12. "The primary purpose of N.D.C.C. ch. 27-20 is to protect the welfare of children." In re A.M., 1999 ND 195, P6, 601 N.W.2d 253.
A court need not await a tragic event before terminating parental rights. In re D.Q., at P21. "When a parent, through voluntary actions, without reasonable justification, makes herself unavailable to care for and parent a young child, the child should not be expected to wait or assume the risk involved in waiting for permanency and stability in her life." In re E.R., at P9.