In re M.C., 272A19

Docket NºNo. 272A19
Citation844 S.E.2d 564, 374 N.C. 882
Case DateJuly 17, 2020
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

374 N.C. 882
844 S.E.2d 564

In the MATTER OF: M.C., M.C., M.C.

No. 272A19

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Filed July 17, 2020

Stephenson & Fleming, LLP, by Deana K. Fleming, for petitioner-appellee Orange County Department of Social Services.

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, Raleigh, by Tiffany M. Burba and Spencer J. Guld, for appellee Guardian ad Litem.

Richard Croutharmel, Raleigh, for respondent-appellant mother.

HUDSON, Justice.

844 S.E.2d 565

Respondent appeals from the trial court's orders terminating her parental rights to M.C. (Megan), M.C. (Miranda), and M.C. (Margot).1 We affirm.

Respondent and the children's father, Walter, were married in September 2010. Miranda was born in February 2012. Respondent and Walter divorced in April 2013, though they maintained an "on and off" relationship subsequent to the divorce. Megan was born in August 2016.

On 15 February 2017, Orange County Department of Social Services (DSS) received a report alleging neglect of Miranda and Megan due to their exposure to domestic violence. The report alleged Walter was verbally abusive, possessed a firearm, and that respondent was afraid for her life. Walter was arrested and charged for this incident. The report also alleged there had been an incident during the previous week where Walter pushed respondent against a wall and punched her in the face. When Miranda attempted to intervene, Walter threw her across the room. Law enforcement was not notified of that incident.

As a result of the report, DSS conducted an assessment and decided to provide in-home services to the family. DSS determined there was a history of domestic violence. Respondent had obtained five previous domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs) against Walter, though each was subsequently violated, and she obtained a sixth following the February 2017 incidents. As part of a safety plan, DSS mandated respondent and Walter have no contact for three months. Services were recommended to address the domestic violence, respondent's mental health, and Walter's substance abuse.

As with the previous DVPOs, Walter violated the sixth, and respondent became pregnant with Margot during the mandated no-contact period. In June 2017, respondent informed her social worker that she had resumed her relationship with Walter and that services were no longer needed. Respondent and Walter moved back in together on 19 June 2017.

On 21 June 2017, Walter became enraged because respondent lost her wallet, and he told her over the phone that he would put her "in the ground." When he subsequently showed up at her workplace, the police were called, and Walter was arrested for violating the DVPO. Respondent amended her DVPO to prevent Walter from contacting her or the children.

On 27 June 2017, DSS filed juvenile petitions alleging Miranda and Megan were neglected but allowed the children to remain in respondent's physical custody. On 12 July 2017, respondent entered into a consent order with DSS in which she agreed to have no contact with Walter. On 1 August 2017, respondent's social worker learned that respondent went to the emergency room on 21 July 2017, accompanied by Walter and the children. The social worker also learned that respondent was staying at the apartment she had previously shared with Walter, though she claimed to be staying with her mother. DSS took Miranda and Megan into non-secure custody on 2 August 2017. They were placed in the home of their maternal grandmother.

Following a hearing on 17 August 2017, Miranda and Megan were adjudicated to be neglected juveniles. The trial court concluded

844 S.E.2d 566

it was in the best interests of the children for DSS to maintain custody and allowed respondent one hour of visitation with the children per week. The court also ordered respondent to complete a mental health assessment and follow all recommendations, to sign a release for her treatment providers to release relevant information to DSS, and to abide by the DVPO against Walter.

Walter was incarcerated for violating the DVPO from the end of July 2017 to November 2017. During that period, respondent was "highly engaged" and attended weekly visitations with the children, as well as a weekly domestic violence support group and monthly therapy sessions.

Margot was born in January 2018. Because respondent was progressing with her case plan and "on track for reunification," DSS did not remove Margot from her care. Respondent continued to make progress throughout the beginning of 2018. She continued therapy, started a parenting program, and claimed to be "done" with Walter. DSS expanded respondent's visitation with Miranda and Megan, allowing respondent to be supervised by her mother instead of DSS and to visit the children in their grandmother's home.

On 22 March 2018, respondent was seen with Walter in the DSS parking lot. When confronted by her social worker the next day, respondent admitted having been in contact with Walter since December 2017. She also admitted she and Walter had argued in the car after leaving the DSS parking lot, and she had left Margot in the car with Walter following the argument. As a result of these admissions, DSS filed a petition alleging Margot was a neglected juvenile and obtained non-secure custody the same day.

Following Margot's removal, both parents appeared to make efforts toward reunification. They agreed to not contact each other but indicated their ultimate goal was reunification as a family. Less than one month after Margot's removal, however, respondent and Walter were seen at a funeral together. DSS was informed they arrived together and held hands during the ceremony.

In the weeks that followed, Walter was repeatedly observed driving respondent's car. DSS was aware respondent and Walter continued seeing each other during the summer of 2018 and advised respondent that her relationship with Walter would prevent reunification with her daughters. Despite these warnings, the relationship continued.

After a permanency planning hearing on 16 August 2018, the trial court changed the children's primary permanent plan to adoption with a secondary plan of reunification. DSS moved the children from their placement with respondent's mother into an adoptive foster home.

After the permanency planning hearing, DSS lost contact with Walter, and he ceased all services with the agency. Respondent continued to report that she and Walter were still together. On 30 October 2018, respondent told her social worker that her relationship with Walter was stable and free of violence. At their next weekly meeting, the social worker learned that Walter had threatened to kill respondent on 29 October 2018 and 30 October 2018 and had threatened to burn down her apartment on one of those occasions. Respondent sought another DVPO in November 2018. Respondent again reported to DSS that she was not seeing Walter anymore and would not allow his presence to keep her from getting her children back.

Police saw Walter and respondent together in her car at her apartment complex on 13 November 2018. The officers spoke with her, but respondent and Walter left together in her car before the officers could serve Walter with the DVPO. Two days later, the property manager at respondent's apartment complex saw Walter enter respondent's apartment alone and called the police. Respondent later reported that she had given Walter a key. On 1 December 2018, two days after Walter was served with the DVPO, respondent called the police to report that Walter had taken her debit card and her car. Respondent later reported she had previously given him the PIN for the debit card. Police were waiting for Walter when he arrived back at the apartment. He became aggressive toward the

844 S.E.2d 567

officers, was arrested, and charged with violating the DVPO and resisting arrest.

On 16 November 2018, DSS filed motions to terminate respondent's and Walter's parental rights to each of the children. Following a hearing on 21 February 2019, the trial court adjudicated grounds to terminate respondent's and Walter's parental rights to the children. The court further concluded that the termination of respondent's and Walter's parental rights was in the best interests of the children. Respondent appeals.2

Termination of parental rights consists of a two-stage...

To continue reading

Request your trial
17 cases
  • M.E. v. T.J., COA18-1045
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • 31 d4 Dezembro d4 2020
    ...Protective Order (50B). " (Emphasis added). This finding of fact is not challenged on appeal, and is therefore binding.3 Matter of M.C. , 374 N.C. 882, 885, 844 S.E.2d 564, 567 (2020).III. N.C.G.S. § 50B-1 The trial court concluded that "had [Plaintiff and Defendant] been of opposite gender......
  • In re A.C., 446A20
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 27 d5 Agosto d5 2021
    ...allowing him to visit her new child in spite of his prior history of committing acts of domestic violence against her. See In re M.C. , 374 N.C. 882, 889, 844 S.E.2d 564 (2020) (concluding that "respondent's refusal to acknowledge the effect of domestic violence on the children and her inab......
  • Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, Inc. v. Smart & Final Stores LLC, 181A21
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 17 d5 Junho d5 2022
    ...this Court can and should disregard the trial court's labels when necessary to apply the appropriate standard of review. In re M.C. , 374 N.C. 882, 890, 844 S.E.2d 564 (2020). Therefore, to properly review the issue before us, we have listed the trial court's unchallenged findings of fact e......
  • In re A.A., 441A20
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 17 d5 Junho d5 2022
    ...where there is some evidence to support those findings, even though the evidence might sustain findings to the contrary." In re M.C. , 374 N.C. 882, 886, 844 S.E.2d 564 (2020) (quoting 873 S.E.2d 507 In re Montgomery , 311 N.C. at 110–11, 316 S.E.2d 246 ). Here, there is sufficient evidence......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT