August 20, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Grandparent Has No Constitutionally Protected Liberty Interest in Society or Custody of Child

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of C.N. on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Dependency and NeglectGrandparentsFourteenth AmendmentDue ProcessStanding.

In 2015, the Jefferson County Division of Children, Youth, and Families filed a petition in dependency and neglect due to concerns about mother’s mental health. Mother’s newborn was placed in foster care and mother’s parental rights were terminated a year later. A division of the court of appeals affirmed the judgment and a mandate was issued in February 2017. That same month, grandmother filed a motion to intervene in the case and then filed a motion for the child to be placed with her. The juvenile court held a contested hearing on the motion and found it was in the child’s best interest to permanently remain with the foster parents. The court also terminated grandmother’s visitation with the child. The child was adopted by the foster parents in January 2018.

On appeal, grandmother argued that mother did not receive reasonable accommodations to address her mental health issues and the child had a fundamental right of association with grandmother. Also, she asserted that as an intervenor in the case she was a real party interest as to these issues. The court construed grandmother’s arguments to be that she had standing in the case. Grandmother cited no substantive law granting her standing to assert the rights of mother and the child. Further, courts have consistently held that in dependency and neglect appeals parents and intervenors lack standing to assert the rights of other parties. Grandmother lacked standing to raise the issues on appeal regarding mother and the child.

Grandmother also argued the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because the child never resided or was present in Jefferson County. The allegation that the child was dependent or neglected conferred subject matter jurisdiction with the juvenile court; the question then turned on whether venue was proper. When mother gave birth to the child, she was asked at the hospital where she lived and she provided an address in Arvada, which is within Jefferson County. Thus, venue was proper.

Grandmother further argued that her fundamental associational rights with the child required that she be fully considered for placement of the child and it was error for her not to receive notice of the termination hearing. Grandmother did not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in the society or custody of the child because she had only limited visitation rights derived from statute and had no existing custodial relationship. Grandmother did not have placement of the child and was not entitled to notice of the termination hearing.

The court also rejected grandmother’s argument that it was error to not allow grandmother to file a petition for the adoption of the child in the dependency and neglect case. There is no such right in the dependency and neglect proceeding, and grandmother was not precluded from timely filing an adoption petition in a separate proceeding. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err in disallowing the filing of the adoption petition.

The court further rejected grandmother’s argument that the juvenile court erred in terminating her visitation rights with the child. Grandmother’s visitation rights were terminated at the time mother’s parental rights were terminated.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Requirement of Three Months’ Care of Children for Grandparents to Intervene in Dependency and Neglect Action

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of O.C., and Concerning C.M. on September 27, 2012.

Dependency and Neglect—Motion to Intervene—CRCP 24—Final Order—CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a).

In this dependency and neglect proceeding concerning O.C., the child’s maternal grandfather and the child’s maternal step-grandmother (grandparents) appealed from the order denying their motion to intervene. The order was reversed and the case was remanded.

O.C. was removed from mother and father’s care in May 2010. An older child, 2-year-old B.C., had been removed from mother’s care five months earlier because of concerns about possible physical abuse. Grandparents first sought to become involved in the proceeding in October 2010, when they moved to intervene under CRCP 24(a) and (b) and requested that O.C. and B.C. be placed with them. The Jefferson County Division of Children, Youth, and Families (County) opposed the motion, arguing that grandparents did not meet the criteria to intervene as a matter of right under CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a). The trial court denied the motion.

Both the County and the guardian ad litem contended that the order denying grandparents’ motion to intervene was not a final order and, thus, was not properly before the court on appeal. However, the denial of a motion to intervene as a matter of right is a final and appealable order.

Grandparents contended that the trial court erred in denying their motion to intervene as a matter of right under CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a). The trial court denied grandparents’ motion to intervene because they did not have the child in their care for at least three months. However, CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a) only requires foster parents—not parents, grandparents, or other relatives—to have had the subject child in their care for at least three months before being permitted to intervene. CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a) affords to grandparents of a dependent and neglected child the right to intervene in a dependency and neglect proceeding at any time after adjudication, and such right is not contingent on a showing that those grandparents have had the child in their care for more than three months. Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court to allow grandparents to intervene in the proceeding.

Summary and full case available here.