The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In the Interest of M.C.S. on Thursday, April 10, 2014.
Dependency and Neglect—Subject Matter Jurisdiction.
The Jefferson County Division of Children, Youth, and Families (Division) filed a dependency and neglect petition concerning M.C.S. after it received a report that he was discharged from a teen shelter for possessing a pellet gun. M.C.S., who was only four months away from his 18th birthday, did not want to return home and his father did not want him to return home. Father appeared at the advisement hearing, entered a general denial, and requested a jury trial. Father’s attorney was not available during the ninety-day statutory period prescribed for adjudications, so the court set the case for a jury trial after M.C.S. turned 18.
The Division, joined by M.C.S.’s guardian ad litem, moved for summary judgment. Father responded by denying that he had refused to pick up M.C.S. from the shelter, that he was afraid of M.C.S., or that M.C.S. was beyond his control. He also moved to dismiss because M.C.S. would not be adjudicated before he turned 18 and therefore the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction.
The juvenile court found its jurisdiction terminated when M.C.S. turned 18 without having been adjudicated dependent and neglected, and therefore granted father’s motion to dismiss. The Division appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
The Colorado Children’s Code confers exclusive original jurisdiction in the juvenile court over proceedings “[c]oncerning any child who is neglected or dependent” and the term “child” means “a person under eighteen years of age.” A juvenile court’s subject matter jurisdiction is based on the allegations of a child being dependent or neglected.
The Division asserted that once subject matter jurisdiction vested in the juvenile court through the filing of the petition, it could not be divested after M.C.S.’s 18th birthday. The Court agreed that the petition vested the juvenile court with subject matter jurisdiction at the time it was filed, but that jurisdiction was limited. It only authorized the court to enter temporary orders preceding the adjudication. Because the court did not adjudicate M.C.S. before his 18th birthday, it lost jurisdiction to do so. The order was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.