October 17, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: UCCJEA Required Trial Court to Conduct Further Inquiries Before Assuming Jurisdiction

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of C.L.T. on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Termination of Parental Rights—Dependency and Neglect—Jurisdiction—Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act—Emergency Jurisdiction.

C.L.T., a child, was adjudicated dependent and neglected. Thereafter, the Denver Department of Health and Human Services moved to terminate the parental rights of mother and father, alleging that they had not complied with their treatment plans and that both of them were unfit parents. The trial court found that although reasonable efforts had been made to rehabilitate mother, her treatment plan had not been successful, she was not fit to parent the child, and she was not likely to become fit within a reasonable period of time. The court made similar findings regarding father. Then it terminated the parental rights of both mother and father.

On appeal, mother contended that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to terminate her parental rights because it failed to comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). She argued that because a child welfare case remained open in Texas when the Colorado case was filed, the Colorado court could exercise only emergency jurisdiction unless and until it acquired ongoing jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. The information in the record, which was limited but contained at least some indication that the court may not have had the requisite jurisdiction, was insufficient to establish whether the trial court had jurisdiction to enter any order beyond the temporary emergency order.

The judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded for the trial court to undertake further inquiries about proceedings concerning the child in other states, confer with courts in other states as appropriate, and make express findings about its UCCJEA jurisdiction.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: UCCJEA Vests Issuing State with Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Custody Order

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of M.S. on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Dependency and NeglectAllocation of Parental ResponsibilitiesSubject Matter JurisdictionUniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

The Mesa County Department of Human Services (Department) assumed temporary custody of 8-year-old M.S. and initiated a dependency and neglect proceeding. Mother lived in Texas.

The court, by stipulation, adjudicated M.S. dependent or neglected. The Department then moved for a permanent allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) for M.S. to mother. The magistrate determined it was in M.S.’s best interests to be placed with mother and issued an order granting permanent APR to mother.

Father appealed, and a court of appeals division dismissed for failure to obtain district court review. Father then filed a petition for district court review, which was denied, and he appealed again.

Initially, the court of appeals addressed the Department’s argument that the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) does not apply to dependency and neglect proceedings once a child has been adjudicated dependent and neglected. The UCCJEA does not exempt any stage of a dependency and neglect proceeding from its purview.

The court, sua sponte, concluded that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to issue the permanent APR order. Under the UCCJEA, the court that makes an initial custody determination generally retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction. As a result, a Colorado court, absent temporary emergency jurisdiction, may only modify a custody order issued by an out-of-state court under limited circumstances. Here, a California court had issued a custody order before the initiation of the dependency and neglect proceeding. The magistrate did not confer with the California court that issued the custody order or make a determination as to whether the California court had lost exclusive, continuing jurisdiction. Consequently, the magistrate failed to acquire jurisdiction under the UCCJEA before issuing the APR order that effectively modified the California custody order.

The judgment was vacated and the matter was remanded to the district court to direct the magistrate to determine whether it has jurisdiction to issue an APR order that modifies the California custody order.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Appropriately Declined Jurisdiction Under UCCJEA

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Parental Responsibilities Concerning B.C.B., a Child on Thursday, April 9, 2015.

Jurisdiction Under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Mother and father, who were not married, are the parents of B.C.B., born in Idaho in December 2012. The couple moved to Colorado with B.C.B. in July 2013. In August 2013, mother and B.C.B. traveled to Massachusetts, where mother’s extended family lived. Mother testified at the hearing to determine Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) jurisdiction that she had intended to return to Colorado; however, while in Massachusetts, she decided her relationship with father would not work and therefore did not return.

In September 2013, father petitioned the Colorado district court for an allocation of parental responsibilities. Mother contested jurisdiction and filed a custody action in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts court entered temporary orders granting custody to mother in October 2013.

Following conferral between the Colorado and Massachusetts courts, the Colorado court asserted temporary emergency jurisdiction over B.C.B., ordered mother to return to Colorado with B.C.B., and set a hearing to determine jurisdiction. The Massachusetts court vacated its temporary order and stayed its proceedings pending the Colorado decision on jurisdiction.

The Colorado court determined that (1) Idaho was B.C.B.’s home state under the UCCJEA; (2) neither party wanted Idaho to take jurisdiction; and (3) either Colorado or Massachusetts could exercise jurisdiction, but neither was required to do so. The court then declined its jurisdiction on the basis that Colorado was not the most appropriate forum. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals applied an abuse of discretion standard in reviewing the trial court’s decision to decline to exercise jurisdiction. The Court held that the child had no home state because neither the parents nor the child lived in Idaho when father filed his petition and the child had not lived in either Colorado or Massachusetts long enough to establish home state jurisdiction. Despite this error by the trial court, it properly proceeded under CRS § 14-13-201(1)(b) to consider whether B.C.B. and his parents had a significant connection with Colorado and whether substantial evidence concerning B.C.B. was located in Colorado. Because the court’s factual findings as to the lack of significant connection with Colorado or of substantial evidence in Colorado were supported by the record, the Court will not disturb them. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.