July 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Need Not Enforce Indian Child Welfare Act Notice Requirements When Mother Made No Assertion at Trial of Possible Indian Heritage

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People In the Interest of J.C.R., N.M-E., and N.M-E, Children, and Concerning B.R. and T.R. on May 12, 2011.

Dependency and Neglect—Termination of Parent-Child Relationships—Indian Child Welfare Act—Compliance With Treatment Plan.

In this dependency and neglect proceeding, mother appealed from the judgment terminating her parent–child legal relationships with J.C.R. and her twin children. Father appealed from the judgment terminating his parent-child legal relationship with J.C.R. The judgment was affirmed.

In April 2009, the twins, then 7 months old, were removed from mother’s and father’s care after police responded to a domestic violence incident between mother and M.E., the twins’ father. Two days later, 6-year-old J.C.R. also was removed. The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (ACDHS) familiar with the three parents because of multiple previous domestic violence and suspected drug -se referrals.

Father and mother entered into extensive treatment plans. In January 2010, ACDHS moved to terminate each parent’s parental rights, alleging that either they had not complied with the treatment plans or the plans had not been successful. The trial court terminated each parent’s parental rights. Mother and father appealed.

Mother asserted that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) notice requirements were not met. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Mother made no assertion of possible Indian heritage at trial, nor did she provide any information supporting her Indian heritage during the proceedings. Therefore, there was no reason for the trial court to find that the ICWA notice requirements applied.

Mother also argued (1) there was no credible evidence of domestic violence; (2) she would have been found a fit parent had she been given an additional six months to work on her treatment plan; (3) evidence did not support the trial court’s conclusion that there were no less drastic alternatives to terminating her parental rights; and (4) ACDHS failed to provide “diligent supportive services” to her because it required that she and father have no contact and that rendered her virtually homeless. The Court disagreed with each of these contentions, holding that the grounds for terminating mother’s parental rights were proven by clear and convincing evidence.

Father argued, like mother, that it was error to conclude he had failed to reasonably comply with his treatment plan within a reasonable time. The Court found ample evidence in the record to support the trial court’s findings. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries by the Colorado Court of Appeals on May 12, 2011, can be found here.

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