Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - North Carolina

Date: July 2021

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111

The court may terminate parental rights upon a finding of one or more of the following:

  • The parent has abused or neglected the child.
  • The parent has willfully left the child in foster care for more than 12 months without showing reasonable progress in correcting the conditions that led to the removal of the child.
  • The child has been in an out-of-home placement for a continuous period of 6 months, and the parent has willfully failed for such period to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care for the child although physically and financially able to do so.
  • A noncustodial parent has for a period of 1 year or more willfully failed without justification to pay for the care, support, and education of the child, as required by a custody agreement.
  • The father of a child born out of wedlock has not, prior to the filing of a petition or motion to terminate parental rights, done any of the following:
    • Filed an affidavit of paternity in a central registry maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services
    • Legitimated the child pursuant to provisions of § 49-10, § 49-12.1, or filed a petition for this specific purpose
    • Legitimated the child by marriage to the mother of the child
    • Provided substantial financial support or consistent care with respect to the child and mother
    • Established paternity through §§ 49-14, 110-132, 130A-101, 130A-118 or other judicial proceeding
  • The parent is incapable of providing for the proper care of the child as a result of substance abuse, intellectual disability, mental illness, or organic brain syndrome.
  • The parent has willfully abandoned the child for at least 6 consecutive months, or the parent has voluntarily abandoned an infant pursuant to § 7B-500 for at least 60 consecutive days.
  • The parent has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent or other child residing in the home; has aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home; has committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home; or has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of the other parent of the child.
  • The parental rights of the parent to another child have been terminated involuntarily, and the parent lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home.
  • The parent has been convicted of a sexually related offense that resulted in the conception of the child.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111

No parental rights shall be terminated for the sole reason that the parents are unable to care for the child on account of their poverty.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1114

A child whose parent's rights have been terminated, the guardian ad litem attorney, or a county Department of Social Services with custody of the child may file a motion to reinstate the parent's rights if all of the following conditions are satisfied:

  • 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 permanency plan is no longer adoption.

At the hearing on the motion, the court shall consider whether reinstatement is in the child's best interests, based on the following criteria:

  • What efforts were made to achieve adoption or a permanent guardianship
  • Whether the parent has remedied the conditions that led to the termination of parental rights
  • Whether the child would receive proper care and supervision in a safe home if placed with the parent
  • The child's age, maturity, and ability to express a preference
  • The parent's willingness to resume contact with the child and to have parental rights reinstated
  • The child's willingness to resume contact with the parent
  • Services that would be needed by the child and the parent if rights were reinstated
  • Any other criteria the court deems necessary

At any hearing under this section, the court may do one of the following:

  • Enter an order for visitation
  • Order that the juvenile be placed in the former parent's home and supervised by the department

The court shall either dismiss or grant a motion for reinstatement of parental rights within 12 months from the date the motion was filed unless the court makes written findings why a final determination cannot be made within that time.