October 21, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: When Child Adjudicated Dependent and Neglected, Separate Court Loses Jurisdiction Over Parentage Proceeding

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of D.C.C. on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Dependency and Neglect—Uniform Parentage Act—Exclusive, Continuing Jurisdiction.

The Weld County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect and for a determination of paternity. The petition named A.M.G. as the father of the child and advised him that paternity might be determined in the action pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). No one disputed paternity. Before the filing of the dependency and neglect proceeding, stepmother had filed a motion for allocation of parental responsibilities in a domestic relations court. The domestic relations court ordered father to complete genetic testing in this case, but he didn’t get tested before the dependency and neglect case. The domestic relations court then certified the issues of legal custody and parental rights and responsibilities to the dependency and neglect court.

Father failed to appear at his adjudicatory hearing in August 2016, and the district court entered a default decree adjudicating the child dependent or neglected. Father appeared for the first time at a hearing in February 2017, and the court appointed counsel and ordered genetic testing. Meanwhile, the Weld County Child Support Services Unit had filed a petition for support in another division of the juvenile court in November 2016. Father had failed to appear in that case as well and failed to appear for the genetic testing that was also ordered in that case.

In April 2017, the dependency and neglect court informed the parties that the magistrate in the child support case had entered an order finding that father wasn’t a legal parent of the child and declared stepmother to be the child’s legal parent. The dependency and neglect court was unsure if this was proper, but ultimately decided that the child support court’s parentage order was final because no one had sought review. The court dismissed A.M.G. from the case as the father.

On appeal, father argued that the dependency and neglect court erroneously relied on the order from the child support court that he wasn’t the child’s legal father. He argued that after the dependency and neglect court adjudicated the child, it maintained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the child until the case was closed or the child reached age 21. Under the Children’s Code, the juvenile court has exclusive, original jurisdiction in both dependency and neglect proceedings and proceedings to determine parentage. The Court of Appeals held that once a child has been adjudicated dependent or neglected, all matters related to the child’s status must be addressed in the open dependency and neglect case, where parents are afforded procedural and substantive due process protections that aren’t available under the UPA.

The order dismissing father from the petition in dependency or neglect was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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