An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

NO. COA05-723


Filed: 21 March 2006

IN THE MATTER OF:                            Ashe County
    A.A.E.                                 Nos. 04 J 16
    H.M.E.                                    04 J 17

    Appeal by respondent-mother and respondent-father from orders entered 20 January 2005 by Judge Jeanie R. Houston in Ashe County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 25 January 2005.

    Hall & Hall Attorneys at Law, P.C., by Susan P. Hall, for respondent-mother appellant.

    Robert W. Ewing for respondent-father appellant.

    Tracie M. Jordan for Guardian ad Litem appellee.

    Grier J. Hurley for Ashe County Department of Social Services, petitioner appellee.    

    MCCULLOUGH, Judge.

    Respondent-father C.E. and respondent-mother S.M. appeal from two district court orders terminating their parental rights of A.A.E. and H.M.E. We affirm.

    Respondents are the biological parents of both A.A.E. and H.M.E. H.M.E. was originally placed in DSS custody on 17 July 2002 and was subsequently adjudicated neglected and placed into foster care on 26 July 2002 due to allegations of domestic violence and abuse. Both parents entered into a Family Services Case Plan on 28 October 2002 in which the parents agreed to attend individualcounseling, couples counseling, anger management classes, parenting skills and life skills classes. The parents further agreed to refrain from further acts of domestic violence and keep all appointments for supervised visits with H.M.E. In January 2003, while the parents were attempting to fulfill all the obligations under the plan, A.A.E. was born. On 13 June 2003, pursuant to a six-month review and permanency plan review, the court entered an order to place H.M.E. back in the home for a trial visit in response to the parents' progress and compliance with their Family Services Case Plan. In June 2003, C.E. was unemployed and the family was evicted from their current place of residence. Around this time, H.M.E. began to show signs of abuse similar to those which prompted the first removal from the home. Ceanne Barnett (Ms. Barnett) testified that she noticed bruises, dark circles under the eyes of H.M.E., and nervous behavior. During a home visit by DSS, S.M. asked that both children be removed from the home and indicated evidence of maltreatment. Both A.A.E. and H.M.E. were placed in foster care on 29 August 2003 and were subsequently adjudicated neglected.
    The parents again entered into a Family Services Case Plan in September 2003 in which they agreed to get and maintain employment, maintain a home paying rent and utilities, maintain visits with the children, consult a professional consumer credit organization and financial counselor, and seek mental health evaluations and counseling. Both parents obtained jobs; however, neither were able to maintain these jobs resulting in numerous periods ofunemployment. Ms. Barnett, the caseworker, testified that the mother held at least three different jobs and was lying to the father about her employment. The father has failed to make regularly scheduled visits with A.A.E. or H.M.E and has failed to make any visits at all since April 2004. Further, the father was incarcerated on charges of assault in January 2004 and released 11 February 2004.
    The caseworker assigned to work with A.A.E. and H.M.E. indicated that the children are “doing wonderfully well” in their foster home. The trial court ruled that the parental rights of S.M. and C.E. should be terminated because the respondent-parents had neglected both A.A.E. and H.M.E. within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101. Further, the trial court determined that the best interests of the children would be served by the termination of respondents' parental rights.
    Respondents now appeal.
    On appeal the respondent-parents both contend that the trial court erred by finding and concluding that A.A.E. and H.M.E. were in a state of neglect at the time of the hearing. We conclude that the challenged determination with respect to each respondent must be affirmed.
    This Court reviews an order terminating parental rights for whether findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, and whether those findings of fact support aconclusion that parental rights should be terminated for one of the grounds set forth in the North Carolina General Statutes. In re Oghenekevebe, 123 N.C. App. 434, 439, 473 S.E.2d 393, 398 (1996). Where a trial court concludes that parental rights should be terminated pursuant to several of the statutory grounds, the order of termination will be affirmed if the court's conclusion with respect to any one of the statutory grounds is supported by valid findings of fact. In re Swisher, 74 N.C. App. 239, 240-41, 328 S.E.2d 33, 34-35 (1985).
    N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1) provides that the trial court may terminate a parent's parental rights based upon neglect if “[t]he parent has . . . neglected the juvenile. The juvenile shall be deemed to be . . . neglected if the court finds the juvenile to be . . . a neglected juvenile within the meaning of G.S. 7B-101.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1)(2005). N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-101(15) (2005) defines a neglected juvenile as:
        A juvenile who does not receive proper care, supervision, or discipline from the juvenile's parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; or who has been abandoned; or who is not provided necessary medical care; or who is not provided necessary remedial care; or who lives in an environment injurious to the juvenile's welfare; or who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law.

In instances where the minor children have been adjudicated neglected and the parents have not had custody for a significant period prior to the termination hearing, the prior adjudication standing alone will not be sufficient to support termination. In reBrim, 139 N.C. App. 733, 742, 535 S.E.2d 367, 372 (2000). This Court in Brim further explained that
        the court must take into consideration “any evidence of changed conditions in light of the evidence of prior neglect and the probability of a repetition of neglect. The determinative factors must be the best interests of the child and the fitness of the parent to care for the child at the time of the termination proceeding.”

Id. (quoting In re Ballard, 311 N.C. 708, 715, 319 S.E.2d 227, 232 (1984)).
    In the instant case, the trial court made certain findings of fact indicating that at the time of the first removal of H.M.E., the father had held a lighter to H.M.E.'s face causing a burn to her left eyelid; there was domestic violence in the home towards the child and mother; and the family apartment was filthy. After H.M.E. was returned to the home, there was a second removal in which the mother indicated that she would rather A.A.E. and H.M.E. be taken away than to see them live under these conditions and informed the social worker that the father was again being “rough.” Further, the parents had been evicted from their home, were unemployed, H.M.E. was exhibiting dark circles under her eyes and was sad and withdrawn, and A.A.E. had been repeatedly bound tightly in a blanket causing gross motor difficulties. DSS provided funds to respondent-mother and respondent-father; however, they were still evicted on numerous occasions from their homes for failure to pay rent. A couple of months before the hearing, the parents' furniture had been repossessed for failure to make rental payments.Both children have been in foster care for over half of their lives and respondent-father has not visited with A.A.E. or H.M.E. since April 2004. Respondent-father further was charged with assault in February 2004 and incarcerated, has several other criminal problems, and has failed to maintain stable employment. The mother had also lied to DSS workers about her living arrangements.
    Though the respondent-parents may argue to the contrary, a review of the transcript reveals that they have done little to correct the conditions that originally led to A.A.E. and H.M.E. being removed from the home. Both parents have been unable to maintain stable employment, holding sporadic jobs. They have made poor financial decisions, reflected by the repossession of furniture a few months prior to the hearing. Respondent-father has had little to no personal contact with the children, his last visit being in April 2004. Respondent-mother has failed to be truthful with DSS regarding her living conditions. Though respondent-father did complete domestic violence classes, he appears to still have anger and control issues.
    To this end, we conclude that the court's findings in this regard are supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Moreover, those findings wholly support the court's conclusion that there is a probability of repetition of neglect to A.A.E. and H.M.E., who were previously adjudicated neglected.
    Our holding with respect to this ground for termination makes it unnecessary for us to consider respondent-parents' arguments concerning the other grounds upon which their parental rights wereterminated. See Swisher, 74 N.C. App. at 240-41, 328 S.E.2d at 34- 35. The corresponding assignments of error are overruled.
    Respondent-mother further contends on appeal that the lower court abused its discretion in finding that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate parental rights. We disagree.
    If the lower court determines that grounds to terminate parental rights existed, “the court shall issue an order terminating the parental rights of such parent with respect to the juvenile unless the court shall further determine that the best interests of the juvenile require that the parental rights of the parent not be terminated.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a)(2003) amended by 2005 N.C. Session Laws ch. 398, § 17. “The trial court's decision to terminate parental rights, if based upon a finding of one or more of the statutory grounds supported by evidence in the record, is reviewed on an abuse of discretion standard.” In re McMillon, 143 N.C. App. 402, 408, 546 S.E.2d 169, 174, disc. review denied, 354 N.C. 218, 554 S.E.2d 341 (2001).
    In the instant case, the trial court properly found that A.A.E. and H.M.E. had been neglected and that there was a probability of repetition of the neglect. Moreover, the evidence at the termination hearing demonstrated that both children were doing very well in their foster home. Based on the foregoing, this Court is not inclined to find that the trial court abused its discretion in determining that terminating the parental rights of S.M. andC.E. was in the best interests of the children. Therefore, this assignment of error is overruled.     
    Next, respondents contend on appeal that the lower court erred in considering prior orders and exhibits entered or admitted under lower evidentiary standards. Where no objection was made at the lower court, this issue is not properly before the Court. Further, respondents contend that the lower court erred in failing to make findings of facts and delegating the responsibility to the attorney for DSS. We disagree.
    “In order to preserve a question for appellate review, a party must have presented to the trial court a timely request, objection or motion.” N.C.R. App. P. 10(b)(1)(2005). Because respondents did not raise an objection to the court taking judicial notice of prior orders at the termination hearing, they have failed to preserve the issue for appellate review and therefore it is waived.
Moreover, a trial judge may direct the prevailing party to prepare a judgment draft including proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law for the judge to review and determined whether or not to adopt as their own. See Johnson v. Johnson, 67 N.C. App. 250, 313 S.E.2d 162 (1984). Therefore, both respondents' corresponding assignments of error are overruled.
    Lastly, respondent-mother contends on appeal that the lower court erred in failing to enter an adjudicatory order on thejuvenile matter within 30 days of the termination hearing. We disagree.
    Section 7B-1109(e) of our General Statutes provides that, following the trial court's adjudication of a termination petition, “[t]he adjudicatory order shall be reduced to writing, signed, and entered no later than 30 days following the completion of the termination of parental rights hearing.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1109(e) (2005). However, orders terminating parental rights should not be reversed for failure to meet the specified time line unless prejudice can be shown. See In re J.L.K., 165 N.C. App. 311, 315-16, 598 S.E.2d 387, 390-91, disc. review denied, 359 N.C. 68, 604 S.E.2d 314 (2004). “[T]he need to show prejudice in order to warrant reversal is highest the fewer number of days the delay exists. . . . And the longer the delay in entry of the order beyond the thirty-day deadline, the more likely prejudice will be readily apparent.” In re C.J.B., ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 614 S.E.2d 368, 370 (2005).
    In the instant case, the termination hearing was held on 9 December 2004 and the orders terminating parental rights were entered 12 days after the statutorily prescribed period on 21 January 2005. Where respondents have not shown any prejudice resulting from this short delay, they are not entitled to a reversal. In re B.M., M.M., An.M., & Al.M., 168 N.C. App. 350, 353, 607 S.E.2d 698, 701-02 (2005) (delay in filing petition seeking termination of parental rights in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-907(e) not reversible error without a showing of prejudice); Inre A.D.L., J.S.L., C.L.L., 169 N.C. App. 701, 705-06, 612 S.E.2d 639, 642, disc. review denied, 619 S.E.2d 402 (2005) (delay in entry of order terminating parental rights not reversible error without a showing of prejudice). Thus, the trial court's failure to file the orders terminating parental rights within thirty days amounted to harmless error and is not grounds for reversal. The corresponding assignments of error are overruled.
    Accordingly, the trial judge properly found that there was sufficient evidence of grounds for terminating respondents' parental rights and finding that, within his discretion, termination was in the best interests of the children. Moreover, we decline to find that the trial court committed error warranting reversal in delegating the duty of drafting the order or entering the order more than 30 days after the conclusion of the hearing. Furthermore, this Court finds no merit in the remaining assignments of error and they are therefore overruled.
    Judges ELMORE and LEVINSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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