Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People ex rel E.M.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division A

March 10, 2016

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of E.M., L.M., and E.J.M., Children, and Concerning L.G.M., Respondent-Appellant.

         Alamosa County District Court Nos. 13JV56, 14JR17, 14JR18 & 14JR19 Honorable Amanda Kay Pearson, Judge

         JUDGMENTS DISMISSED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

          Jason T. Kelly, County Attorney, Alamosa, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          Raymond K. Miller, Guardian Ad Litum

          Zerbi Law Firm, PC, Merida I. Zerbi, Monte Vista, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant

          Loeb, C. J, and Furman, J, concur

          OPINION MODIFIED ON THE COURT'S OWN MOTION

          ASHBY JUDGE

          ¶ 1 This case, which comprises four consolidated appeals, requires us to examine the interrelationship between two articles of the Children's Code. Article three, sections 19-3-100.5 to -703, C.R.S. 2015, relates to dependency and neglect proceedings. Article five, sections 19-5-100.2 to -403, C.R.S. 2015, relates to relinquishment and adoption proceedings. As an issue of first impression, we address whether a county department of social services may move to involuntarily terminate a parent's parental rights in a relinquishment case under article five when the children are the subject of a pending dependency and neglect case under article three.[1] We conclude it cannot.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 This proceeding began under article three of the Children's Code when the Alamosa County Department of Human Services (department) filed a petition alleging that the children, E.M., L.M., and E.J.M., were dependent or neglected because mother was addicted to pain pills and father, L.G.M. (the appellant), was incarcerated. See § 19-3-502, C.R.S. 2015. The court granted temporary custody of the children to the department after a shelter hearing, and the department placed the children with relatives. See §§ 19-3-403, 19-3-404, C.R.S. 2015.

         ¶ 3 Thereafter, both father and mother admitted the petition's allegations, and the court adjudicated the children dependent and neglected. See § 19-3-505, C.R.S. 2015. The court adopted a treatment plan for mother that required her to participate in family drug court. § 19-3-508(1), C.R.S. 2015. As to father, the court found that he did not agree with his proposed treatment plan and, since he was incarcerated and unwilling to discuss a proposed treatment plan, the court determined that no appropriate treatment plan could be devised for him. The court made no finding that because of the length of father's incarceration no appropriate treatment plan could be devised. See §§ 19-3-508(1)(e)(I), 19-3-604(1)(b)(III), C.R.S. 2015. However, no dispositional order for father was entered at that time because no party moved to terminate father's parental rights. See § 19-3-508(1); see also People in Interest of M.S., 2012 COA 211, ¶¶ 2-4 ("When the proposed disposition is termination of the parent-child legal relationship, the termination hearing serves as the dispositional hearing.") (emphasis added).

         ¶ 4 A year after the case was opened, the guardian ad litem (GAL) moved to terminate the parent-child legal relationship between each parent and the children under article three, section 19-3-604, C.R.S. 2015, and cited two of the three statutory grounds for termination. See § 19-3-602, C.R.S. 2015. First, the motion asserted that the parents had abandoned the children. See § 19-3-604(1)(a). Second, and notwithstanding the court's prior finding that a treatment plan could not be devised for father, the motion alleged that an appropriate treatment plan approved by the court had not been complied with by the parents or had not been successful, the parents were unfit, and their conduct or condition was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. See § 19-3-604(1)(c). The motion did not cite the court's determination that no appropriate treatment plan could be devised to address father's unfitness as a ground for terminating his parental rights. See § 19-3-604(1)(b).

         ¶ 5 At the hearing on the GAL's termination motion, mother decided to relinquish her parental rights.[2] See § 19-5-103, C.R.S. 2015. Once mother made this decision, the department believed that the relinquishment statute compelled it to move to terminate father's parental rights in a relinquishment case under article five of the Children's Code. See § 19-5-105(1), C.R.S. 2015 ("If one parent relinquishes . . ., the agency or person having custody of the child shall file a petition in the juvenile court to terminate the parent-child legal relationship of the other parent . . . ."). In three separate relinquishment cases (one for each child), the department filed petitions to terminate the parent-child legal relationship between father and each child under the relinquishment statute, section 19-5-105. But, the dependency and neglect case remained open and pending, although no action was taken on the GAL's article three termination motion. With the court's approval, the GAL and the department pursued termination of father's parental rights entirely through the relinquishment cases.

         ¶ 6 After a hearing, the court terminated father's parental rights under the relinquishment statute. And, at the same time, the court also issued an order establishing a new permanency planning goal and setting a review hearing in the dependency and neglect case. See § 19-3-702, C.R.S. 2015.

         ¶ 7 Father appeals the three judgments terminating his parent-child legal relationship with the children in the relinquishment cases. We reverse these judgments and remand for further proceedings in the dependency and neglect case.

         II. Discussion

         ¶ 8 Father contends that the court erred in interpreting the Children's Code to permit the department to file its termination motion in an article five (adoption and relinquishment) proceeding ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.