The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.W. on Thursday, August 25, 2016.
Termination of Parent–Child Relationship—Lack of Jurisdiction.
The Clear Creek Department of Human Services (department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect concerning J.W. and N.W. Following a jury trial concerning mother, the jury answered “no” to the question of whether the children lacked proper parental care and stated that it was “unable to return an answer” as to whether the children’s environment was injurious to their welfare. Immediately following the jury trial, a hearing was held to discuss scheduling a new adjudication trial for mother. Mother instead chose to admit the children’s environment was injurious to their welfare, and the court accepted her admission. No order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected was entered. The court adopted the treatment plan already in place as the plan going forward. A few months later, the court terminated mother’s parental rights. More than a month after mother’s parental rights were terminated, the court entered a written order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to her.
Mother appealed the order purporting to terminate her legal relationship with her children. The Court of Appeals considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction to terminate mother’s parental rights before it entered an order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to her and concluded it did not. Without adjudication, a court does not acquire subject matter jurisdiction to terminate a parent–child relationship.
In addition, the Court found that the written adjudicatory order was entered several weeks after mother filed her notice of appeal. Once the notice of appeal was filed, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to take any action because jurisdiction had been shifted to the Court of Appeals.
The order adjudicating the children dependent or neglected with respect to mother and the judgment terminating her parental rights with respect to the children were vacated. The case was remanded for the trial court to resume proceedings at the adjudicatory stage.
Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.