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North Carolina Court of Appeals Upholds Termination of Prisoner's Parental Rights

While the identity of the father was unknown, minor child C.L.S. was adjudicated neglected and dependent based upon the mother's history of drug addiction - including drug use during her pregnancy with C.L.S. - mental health issues and drug-related criminal history. Later, paternity tests proved who the father was.

A month later, the father was incarcerated on serious felony charges, including attempted rape, kidnapping, breaking and entering and being a habitual felon. About ten months later, a court terminated both parents’ parental rights. Represented by attorney David A. Perez, the father appealed.

The court of appeals noted that, when his paternity was established, the father initially indicated that he was not interested in reunification with his child. Before he was incarcerated, the social worker in charge of C.L.S.'s case tried to get him to come to her office to work out a visitation plan. However, he rescheduled a couple of time then didn't show up.

When she brought the visitation plan to him in jail, he refused to sign it saying that he wanted his attorney's input. She left him the plan, but he never returned it.

The social worker also said the father never provided any financial support for C.L.S. and had no bond with her. Thus, the court of appeals determined that he had failed "to provide love, support, affection and personal contact" to C.L.S. This meant that there was at least one ground to support the termination. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed. One of the two dissenting judges noted that the scant month between paternity determination and incarceration hardly gave the father an opportunity to bond and show love, support, affection and personal contact to C.L.S. before his parental rights were terminated. See: In re: C.L.S., Court of Appeals of North Carolina, No. COA15-613 (Decided January 19, 2016).

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Related legal case

In re: C.L.S.