Many attorneys practicing in the area of family law have seen an increase in attempts to take children away from their parents. In the Matter of J.K.C. and J.D.K. is a North Carolina Court of Appeals case arising out of an attempt to terminate a prison inmate’s parental rights and take his two children away from him. The children’s mother had drug and domestic violence issues while the father was serving a prison sentence. The two children were determined to be neglected and dependent juveniles. The trial court held a Permanency Planning Review hearing and ordered a concurrent plan of adoption and reunification. Subsequently, DSS was ordered to proceed with termination of parental rights.
After that order was entered, DSS asked the court to reconsider termination of parental rights in the matter, indicating that DSS had some doubt about whether termination of parental rights was appropriate. However, the trial judge then ordered the guardian ad litem program to file an action to terminate parental rights. The mother subsequently relinquished her parental rights and a hearing was held on the termination of the father’s parental rights.
The trial court concluded that the guardian ad litem failed to show by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that there were sufficient grounds to terminate the father’s parental rights and dismissed the petition. When the guardian ad litem appealed the dismissal, the Court of Appeals upheld the father’s parental rights. The Court of Appeals reviewed each of the relevant findings of fact by the trial court and agreed with the trial court.
While many people assume that long term incarceration will result in the loss of parental rights, this case illustrates the importance of hiring an attorney to represent your interest should an attempt be made to terminate your parental rights.