The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of M.R.M., M.M.M., and M.M.M., Children, and Concerning M.M.A., Respondent-Appellant.
Garfield County District Court No. 16JV21 Honorable Denise K.
L. Williams, County Attorney, Heather K. Beattie, Assistant
County Attorney, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for
L. Coleman and Luisa V. Berne, Guardians Ad Litem Debra W.
Dodd, Berthoud, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant
1 In this dependency and neglect proceeding, M.M.A. (mother)
appeals from the order dismissing the dependency and neglect
proceeding concerning M.R.M., M.M.M., and M.A.M. (the
children). We conclude that the order from which mother seeks
to appeal is not a final and appealable order, and that
because her notice of appeal was not filed within twenty-one
days after the entry of the order that was final and
appealable, her appeal is untimely. Therefore, we dismiss the
2 In March 2016, the Garfield County Department of Human
Services (the Department) sought and received temporary
custody of eleven-year-old M.R.M., six-year-old M.M.M., and
three-year-old M.A.M. based on concerns that the children had
been exposed to drugs, violence in the home, and an injurious
3 Shortly after the children were removed from mother's
home, the Department filed a petition in dependency and
neglect, naming mother and M.M. (father of M.R.M. and M.M.M.,
and stepfather to M.A.M.; hereafter father M.M.) as
respondents. The Department acknowledged that father M.M. was
not M.A.M.'s biological father and that J.H., a resident
of Florida, was suspected to be her father. A caseworker
contacted J.H. in Florida and learned that he had some mental
health issues. The caseworker then discussed the situation
with J.H.'s mother, who was his primary caretaker.
4 Although the court entered an order requiring genetic
testing of J.H., and the Department said that it was "in
the process of conducting a genetic test to determine
paternity, " no genetic test results appear in the
record, and J.H. was never determined to be M.A.M.'s
father or named as a party to the case.
5 The court initially placed the children with their maternal
grandmother. However, father M.M. moved from Florida to
Colorado and sought custody of all three children soon after
the case began. He said that he shared custody of the older
two children with mother under a domestic relations order,
and he asserted that he should have custody of M.A.M. because
he was her psychological parent. The court placed the
children with him, under the protective supervision of the
Department, at the end of March.
6 In May, father M.M. entered into a stipulated agreement for
continued adjudication under section 19-3-505(5), C.R.S.
2017, and the court adjudicated the children dependent and
neglected with respect to mother after a trial. A division of
this court affirmed the adjudication with respect to mother
in People in Interest of M.R.M., (Colo.App. No.
16CA1845, Nov. 16, 2017) (not published pursuant to C.A.R.
7 The court adopted treatment plans for both mother and
father M.M. But a few weeks after the court approved
mother's plan, father M.M. moved to modify the existing
order under which he shared custody of the children with
mother and to dismiss the dependency and neglect case. In
support of his request for custody of M.A.M., as well as the
older two children, he submitted a letter asserting that he
was M.A.M.'s father because he was the only father she
had ever known, and that he was willing to take full
responsibility for her.
8 In November, the juvenile court entered an order allocating
parental responsibilities for all three children between
father M.M. and mother (the APR order). The court made no
findings as to whether J.H. or father M.M. was M.A.M.'s
legal father. Instead, the court concluded that it had
jurisdiction to allocate parental responsibilities regarding
M.A.M. to father M.M. under section 14-10-123(1)(d), C.R.S.
2017, which provides that a proceeding concerning the
allocation of parental responsibilities may be commenced by a
person other than a parent who has been allocated parental
responsibilities through a juvenile court order.
9 Approximately two weeks after the court entered the APR
order, the court entered an order terminating its
jurisdiction and closing the case. Mother now appeals from
that order. II. Finality, Appealability, Timeliness, and
10 "Unless a notice of appeal is timely filed, the court
of appeals lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal."
People in Interest of A.J., 143 P.3d 1143, 1146
(Colo.App. 2006). Because an appellate court must satisfy
itself that it has jurisdiction to hear an appeal, it may
raise jurisdictional defects nostra sponte. People v.
S.X.G., 2012 CO 5, ¶ 9. We asked the parties to
file supplemental briefs addressing whether mother's
appeal was timely. After reviewing their briefs, we conclude
that the appealable order was the APR order; mother's
notice of appeal was not timely with respect to that order;
and, therefore, we lack jurisdiction to consider her appeal.
11 Ordinarily, a final order or judgment, for purposes of
appeal, is one that ends the action, leaving nothing further
to be done to determine the parties' rights. People