IN THE MATTER OF:
J.F. No. 06 J 307
Ingrid Friesen, P.A., by Ingrid Friesen, for Petitioner-
Susan J. Hall for Respondent-Appellant.
Respondent-Father (Respondent) appeals from an order
terminating his parental rights to the minor child, J.F. We
On 11 August 2006, J.F.'s mother filed a petition seeking to terminate Respondent's parental rights on the grounds that Respondent willfully abandoned J.F. for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(7) (2005), and that Respondent neglected the minor child, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1111(a)(1) (2005) . After a hearing held 22-23 January 2007, the trial court entered its order terminating Respondent's parental rights on both grounds . The sole issue Respondent raises on appeal is whether the trial court erredin concluding that termination of his parental rights is in the best interests of the child.
Proceedings to terminate parental rights are conducted in two parts : (1) the adjudication phase, governed by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1109 (2005), and (2) the disposition phase, governed by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110 (2005). In re Baker, 158 N.C. App. 491, 581 S.E.2d 144 (2003). If a trial court, in the adjudication phase, determines that at least one ground to terminate parental rights exists, the court then, in the disposition phase, must decide whether termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. In re Blackburn, 142 N.C. App. 607, 543 S.E.2d 906 (2001); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a) (2005). In considering the child's best interests, the trial court must consider certain factors, including: (1) the child's age, (2) the likelihood of adoption of the child, (3) whether termination will aid in the accomplishment of the permanent plan for the juvenile, (4) the bond between the parent and the child, (5) the quality of the relationship between the child and the proposed adoptive parent, and (6) any other relevant consideration. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B- 1110(a).
'The standard of review in termination of parental rights cases is whether the findings of fact are supported by clear, cogent and convincing evidence and whether these findings, in turn, support the conclusions of law.' In re Shepard, 162 N.C. App. 215, 221-22, 591 S.E.2d 1, 6 (2004) (citation omitted). Findings of fact supported by competent evidence are binding on appeal eventhough there may be evidence to the contrary. In re Williamson, 91 N.C. App. 668, 373 S.E.2d 317 (1988). A trial court's determination that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Blackburn, supra.
Although in the record on appeal Respondent assigns error to many of the trial court's findings of fact, Respondent does not bring those assignments of error forward in his brief. Questions raised by assignments of error in appeals from trial tribunals but not then presented and discussed in a party's brief, are deemed abandoned. N.C. R. App. P. 28(a). The trial court's findings of fact are therefore deemed to be supported by competent evidence and are conclusive on appeal. In re L.O.K., 174 N.C. App. 426, 428, 621 S.E.2d 236, 238 (2005) (citing Koufman v. Koufman, 330 N.C. 93, 97, 408 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1991)). Pursuant to his fourth assignment of error, Respondent argues only that the trial court abused its discretion in terminating his parental rights because evidence was presented that Respondent and his family attempted to maintain contact with the minor child and that a reasonable hope exists that Respondent can reunite with the child. We disagree.
The trial court made numerous findings of fact which support its conclusion that terminating Respondent's parental rights is in J.F.'s best interests. The trial court found: (1) Respondent last saw J.F. in September 2001, when J.F. was eighteen months old, and Respondent has not contacted the mother about J.F.'s welfare since that time ; (2) Respondent is currently incarcerated, and J.F. willbe at least ten years old before Respondent becomes eligible for release ; (3) After divorcing Respondent, J.F.'s mother re-married in June 2005, and J.F. enjoys a strong relationship with his mother's husband, whom he calls Dad ; (4) The mother and her husband want the husband to adopt J.F. ; (5) J.F. is currently healthy and happy, is doing very well at school, and is involved in several sports and the Boy Scouts ; (6) Respondent is a registered, untreated sex offender ; (7) Respondent committed numerous acts of domestic violence against the mother, yet has never participated in domestic violence treatment programs ; (8) Respondent's past actions, including the domestic violence and a lengthy criminal history, create a likelihood that J.F. would be at a high risk of future abuse or neglect if he were in Respondent's care ; (9) There is no evidence Respondent would be able to provide J.F. with a stable or safe life . Finally, the trial court noted the child's guardian ad litem made an independent inquiry of the situation and recommended terminating Respondent's rights so that J.F. may be adopted by the mother's husband.
The foregoing findings of fact address each of the factors listed in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1110(a) and fully support the trial court's conclusion that the termination of Respondent's parental rights is in the best interests of the child, notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary. See Williamson, 91 N.C. App. at 674, 373 S.E.2d at 320 (When the court's findings . . . are supported by ample, competent evidence, they are binding on appeal, even though there may be evidence to the contrary.). The trial courttherefore did not abuse its discretion in terminating Respondent's parental rights. Respondent's assignment of error is overruled and the order of the trial court is
Judges CALABRIA and GEER concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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