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An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA07-280


Filed: 3 July 2007

IN RE: A.A.R.,
                                         Onslow County
    A Minor Child.                          No. 06 J 137

    Appeal by respondent-father from order entered 6 November 2006 by Judge Sarah C. Seaton in Onslow County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 11 June 2007.

    Donald G. Walton, Jr., for petitioner-mother appellee.

    Lisa Skinner Lefler for respondent-father appellant.

    McCULLOUGH, Judge.

    Respondent-father appeals from a district court order terminating his parental rights as to the minor child. We vacate and remand.

    A.A.R. was born to petitioner-mother (“mother”) and respondent-father (“father”) in Massachusetts in 2001. Mother testified that she filed a petition in a Massachusetts court to establish paternity. On 22 June 2004, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court entered an order giving mother permission to remove the child from Massachusetts to North Carolina and requiring the parties to divide equally the costs associated with the child's traveling to Massachusetts for visitation with father. The order also required father to pay $100.00 per month in child support andgranted him visitation. Mother testified that there has been no additional actions taken with respect to the 22 June 2004 order.
    On 9 May 2006, mother filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of father to A.A.R. in the District Court of Onslow County, North Carolina. As grounds for termination, mother alleged that father had neglected and willfully abandoned A.A.R. and that he had failed to pay child support as ordered. On 29 September 2006, the trial court conducted a hearing on the termination petition, and on 6 November 2006, the trial court entered a written order terminating father's parental rights.
    In his appeal of the termination order, father raises several assignments of error. However, before reviewing the merits of father's arguments, we address the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. “[A] court has inherent power to inquire into, and determine, whether it has jurisdiction and to dismiss an action ex mero motu when subject matter jurisdiction is lacking.” Reece v. Forga, 138 N.C. App. 703, 704, 531 S.E.2d 881, 882, disc. review denied, 352 N.C. 676, 545 S.E.2d 428 (2000).
    The North Carolina General Statutes state a trial court has
        exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine any petition or motion relating to termination of parental rights to any juvenile who resides in, is found in, or is in the legal or actual custody of a county department of social services or licensed child-placing agency in the district at the time of filing of the petition or motion.N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1101 (2005). Here, the petition stated that mother and A.A.R. were residents of Onslow County. In addition, father did not contest the trial court's finding that A.A.R. and mother were residents of Onslow County. As such, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1101 is satisfied. The statute further requires that the trial court comply with the jurisdictional provisions of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) at N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 50A-201, -203, and -204 (2005). N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1101.
    Section 50A-201 addresses subject matter jurisdiction over an initial child-custody determination. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-201. An “initial determination” is defined by statute as “the first child-custody determination concerning a particular child.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-102(8) (2005). Here, the record reflects that the initial custody determination was made by a Massachusetts court, making § 50A-201 inapplicable. Section 50A-204 is also inapplicable to the instant case because it provides North Carolina with temporary emergency jurisdiction. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-204.
    However, the remaining statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-203, outlines the requirements for a North Carolina court to have jurisdiction to modify an existing child-custody determination of another state. Id. In this case, the temporary custody order, the only custody order entered by the Massachusetts court on 22 June 2004, appears to have been still in effect at the time that the termination petition was filed. A North Carolina court cannotmodify a child-custody determination made by another state unless one of the following two requirements are met:
                (1)    The court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction under G.S. 50A-202 or that a court of this State would be a more convenient forum under G.S. 50A-207; or

                (2)    A court of this State or a court of the other state determines that the child, the child's parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the other state.
    Upon review of the record in this case, we find no order from a Massachusetts court determining either that Massachusetts no longer has jurisdiction or that North Carolina would be a more convenient forum, such that § 50A-203(1) would be satisfied. In addition, the record reflects that father remains a resident of Massachusetts, thereby precluding any finding by the trial court that § 50A-203(2) was satisfied. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear a petition for termination of father's parental rights and to enter the termination order. See In re N.R.M., T.F.M., 165 N.C. App. 294, 301, 598 S.E.2d 147, 151 (2004).
    For the foregoing reasons, the order of the trial court must be vacated and this case remanded to the Onslow County District Court for entry of an order dismissing mother's action. Because we resolve this appeal on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, we do not address the merits of father's remaining arguments.    Vacated and remanded.
    Judges WYNN and CALABRIA concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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