Chapter 7B, Article 11 provides North Carolinians with a very extensive and detailed description of the state law requirements for relinquishment of parental rights. The code begins by stating the legislative intent which is to provide a streamlined judicial approach for terminating the biological relationship between parent and child when it is no longer in the child's best interests for the relationship to continue. (See Chapter 7B Â§ 7B-1100). Parents must file a petition in accordance with Â§ 7B-1104. From there, the court will hold an adjudicatory hearing to determine if termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest.
File a petition or motion in support of termination of parental rights. Section 7B-1103 sets forth who may properly file a petition for termination parental rights. It includes either parent seeking self-termination, either parent seeking termination of the other parent, any person judicially appointed as guardian of the minor child, the department of social services, any person with whom the juvenile has resided with for a period of two years or any person who has filed for adoption of the child.
Draft a petition in accordance with § 7B-1104. This code section sets forth very specific guidelines on the formatting of a petition to terminate parental rights. For instance, the petition must be labeled "In re [last name of child], a minor juvenile." All identification information must be provided for the child, including given name, place and date of birth, full name and contact information for both parents, any information as to current guardians, the grounds for termination (explained below) and that the petition has been filed in good faith. The petition should be filed by taking the document to the local trial courthouse in the jurisdiction within which the child resides.
Attend the pre-trial hearing. North Carolina law requires a pre-trial hearing to be held to review certain fundamental principles before the actual termination hearing. This includes whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed on behalf of the child. A guardian ad litem is an attorney, usually serving for free, who would represent the child's best interests. Also, the court will ensure that all parties have been properly served with all necessary documents. If any party has a pre-trial motion to resolve before the hearing, the pre-trial hearing would be when the court resolves those issues. The judge is free to consolidate the pre-trial hearing with the main hearing if he chooses.
Attend adjudicatory hearing to determine termination of parental rights. The code requires the adjudicatory hearing to take place within 90 days of the filing of the petition. The hearing will take place without a jury. The judge will ask the parents, if unrepresented, whether they are indigent and would like representation. The judge can also order psychiatric evaluations of the child if necessary. If the court finds that no extraneous evidence is necessary it will hear evidence on whether the child's best interests would be best served by terminating the rights of the natural parents. Section 7B-1111 lists the grounds for termination, including: neglect, abandonment in foster care, placement in state facility longer than six months, non-custodial parent has failed to provide child support in excess of one calendar year, substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration or the parent has committed murder.
Understand the effects of a termination order. If the judge, at the conclusion of the hearing, declares that it is in the child's best interests to terminate rights, he will then order a final decree officially ending the parent-child relationship. The natural parent is not entitled to notification of adoption. If the child becomes a ward of the state, the natural parent has no rights to the child for visitation whatsoever. Also, any subsequent hearings involving the child do not affect the parent in any way and he or she is no longer entitled to participate.