Published on:

IN RE A.U.S. and A.X.D.

No. 133A19
Filed 27 September 2019
Appeal pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7B-1001(a1)(1) from an order entered on 20
December 2018 by Judge Donald Cureton Jr. in District Court, Mecklenburg County.
This matter was calendared in the Supreme Court on 11 September 2019 but
determined on the record and briefs without oral argument pursuant to Rule 30(f) of
the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Heyward Wall Law, P.A., by Heyward G. Wall, for petitioner-appellant Bethany
Christian Services.
Edward Eldred for respondent-appellee father.
DAVIS, Justice.
This case involves a private termination of parental rights proceeding initiated
by petitioner Bethany Christian Services (BCS) against respondent-father. In this
appeal, we consider whether the trial court erred by declining to terminate
respondent’s parental rights to his children based on its determination that
termination would not be in the best interests of the children. Because we conclude
that the trial court’s ruling was within its discretion, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
Opinion of the Court
Tanya1 and respondent began a relationship in 2016, and Tanya became
pregnant with twin girls, Amy and Ann (collectively, the children), shortly thereafter.
The parties never married, and their relationship ended prior to the children’s birth.
In September 2016, Tanya falsely informed respondent that she had miscarried and
ended contact with him. In January 2017, respondent encountered Tanya at the
hospital where she worked and noticed that she appeared to be pregnant. However,
respondent did not ask her about the pregnancy.
Respondent pled guilty to being a habitual felon in February 2017 after being
convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill or inflict serious
injury.2 While incarcerated, respondent learned that Tanya was, in fact, pregnant
and due to deliver in May 2017. In April 2017, respondent wrote to North Carolina
Prisoner Legal Services for assistance in establishing paternity. Per its instructions,
he attempted to submit a complaint and affidavit of parentage with Mecklenburg
County Child Support Enforcement, but the documents were never actually filed with
the clerk of court.
After the children’s birth in May 2017, Tanya initially cared for them. In June
2017, however, she placed them in the care of Sarah, the children’s maternal aunt.
On 3 August 2017, Tanya relinquished her parental rights to the children to BCS, an
adoption agency. Later that month, Tanya visited Sarah’s home with two social

1 Pseudonyms are used throughout this opinion to protect the identities of the
juveniles and for ease of reading.
2 Respondent has a projected release date of August 2021.
Opinion of the Court
workers, who proceeded to take custody of the children. Shortly thereafter, Sarah
obtained emergency custody of the children in District Court, Mecklenburg County.
BCS filed a motion to intervene in the custody action and was awarded custody. BCS
subsequently placed the children with a prospective adoptive family, where they have
lived through the present date.
On 28 August 2017, BCS filed a petition to terminate respondent’s parental
rights in District Court, Wake County on the grounds of neglect, failure to legitimate,
and dependency. See N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(1), (5), (6) (2017). Respondent then
sought an adjudication of paternity and filed an answer to BCS’s petition. The results
of respondent’s DNA test showed a 99.99% probability of paternity as to the children.
Respondent also executed an affidavit of parentage. On 18 May 2018, the court
entered an order declaring him to be the children’s father. In August 2018, the court
granted respondent’s motion to change venue, and the termination of parental rights
matter was moved to Mecklenburg County.
A hearing on the petition to terminate respondent’s parental rights was held
before the Honorable Donald Cureton Jr. on 7 December 2018 in District Court,
Mecklenburg County. At the hearing, the trial court heard testimony from
respondent, Tanya, Sarah, the children’s guardian ad litem, and the prospective
adoptive parents.
On 20 December 2018, the trial court entered an order in which it concluded
that although a ground existed to terminate respondent’s parental rights under
Opinion of the Court
N.C.G.S. § 7B-1111(a)(5), termination was not in the best interests of the children.
Accordingly, the trial court denied BCS’s petition. BCS gave timely notice of appeal
to this Court.
In this appeal, BCS argues that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings
of fact in its 20 December 2018 order and abused its discretion when it determined
that termination of respondent’s parental rights was not in th

Contact Information