Abandonment and Terminating Parental Rights in North Carolina

Posted by Jonathan Jerkins | Oct 03, 2022 | 0 Comments

Both parents in North Carolina have parental rights; however, in certain cases, such as abandonment, the courts may terminate a parent's rights, deciding that it is in the best interest of the child. Terminating parental rights is serious, so the court does not make the decision hastily.

To terminate parental rights due to abandonment, North Carolina law requires that the child be “willfully abandoned” for six consecutive months unless that child is an infant. In those instances, the parent must have “willfully abandoned” the infant for 60 consecutive days. The actual legislation reads anyone who, “without just cause or provocation, willfully abandons his or her child or children for six months and who willfully fails or refuses to provide adequate means of support.”  To terminate parental rights, the remaining parent must provide evidence supporting the claim. In North Carolina, evidence supporting the claim to terminate parental rights must be clear and convincing (which is a higher level of proof than preponderance of the evidence).

How Can You Terminate the Other Parent's Parental Rights?

If an individual is seeking to terminate someone's parental rights, then there are several steps that they should take. First, the person must fall into one of four categories: a parent seeking to terminate the other parent's parental rights; a legally-appointed guardian; a government agency, such as the Department of Social Services (DSS); or a guardian with whom the child has lived for two consecutive and continuous years before the filing.

First, they must file a petition with the court. This petition must include detailed evidence and facts that support the claim of willful abandonment. Once this petition is filed, the court will send out a summons to all parties involved. This summons includes notice that an answer is required within 30 days. If the parent responds, the next step is a hearing with a judge. The judge will decide based on the evidence and what is in the child's best interest. If there is no response within 30 days, the courts may order that the rights be forfeited.

North Carolina Family Law Attorneys

If you are involved in a situation that concerns parental rights, the attorneys at Jerkins Family Law can help. Call 919-719-2785 or contact them online to learn more.

About the Author

Jonathan Jerkins

Jonathan "Jay" Jerkins, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, intentionally focuses his practice on all aspects of North Carolina family law litigation and negotiations. Jay was admitted to the practice of law in North Carolina in 2014.


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