The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of H.K.W., a Child, and Concerning J.W. and A.M., Respondents-Appellants, and T.K. and J.M., Intervenors-Appellees.
of Appeals No. 16CA0975 Weld County District Court No.
15JV278 Honorable Elizabeth B. Strobel, Judge
Appearance for Petitioner-Appellee
A. Jameson, Guardian Ad Litem Carrie Ann Lucas, Windsor,
Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant J.W.
Hopkins Law, LLC, Laurie L. Strand, James W. Hopkins,
Loveland, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant A.M.
Office of Keren C. Weitzel, LLC, Keren C. Weitzel, Longmont,
Colorado, for Intervenors-Appellees
1 In this dependency and neglect proceeding, J.W. (father)
and A.M. (mother) appeal the trial court's judgment
allocating parental responsibilities of their daughter,
H.K.W. (the child), to J.M. and T.K. (special respondents).
2 This case involves matters of first impression, to wit: (1)
whether a trial court may conduct an in camera interview with
a child who is the subject of an allocation of parental
responsibilities proceeding arising from a dependency and
neglect action; and, if the trial court conducts such an
interview, (2) whether the court must cause a record of the
interview to be created and then make that record available
to the parents.
3 We conclude that the Children's Code permits a trial
court to conduct an in camera interview with a child, and
that due process requires that a record of the interview be
created and, at least in certain circumstances, be made
available upon request to the parents. Because the trial
court in this case relied on the in camera interview of the
child while denying the parents access to a transcript of
that interview, we order that the record on appeal be
supplemented with the transcript of the in camera interview.
We further order that the parties be allowed to file
supplemental briefs addressing whether the trial court's
findings of fact from the interview are supported by the
record. We will issue an opinion addressing the merits of the
appeal following the completion of supplemental briefing.
4 The Weld County Department of Human Services (the
filed a dependency or neglect petition regarding the
six-year-old child based on allegations of father's and
mother's substance abuse; that the child had seen
mother's boyfriend being kidnapped from the home; that
the child had missed a lot of school; and that the family had
been involved in two prior dependency and neglect cases
because of substance abuse, lack of supervision, and domestic
violence. The child was removed from the home and initially
placed with father. Three days later, the child was placed
with the special respondents. Notably, in the prior
dependency and neglect cases, the child also had been placed
with the special respondents.
5 Based on father's and mother's admissions, the
trial court adjudicated the child dependent or neglected. The
court adopted treatment plans, with which father and mother
6 Father, mother, and the special respondents later moved for
an allocation of parental responsibilities. At a hearing, the
child's guardian ad litem (GAL) moved for an in camera
interview with the child. None of the parties objected. The trial
court agreed to interview the child and told the parties that
it would have a record made of the in camera interview and
that a transcript of the interview would be sealed unless
"the matter is appealed." Again, none of the
7 Shortly thereafter, the trial court conducted an in camera
interview with the child. The interview was recorded but not
transcribed. None of the parties requested a transcript of
8 After a subsequent hearing, the trial court found as
● the child had been the subject of three dependency