People in the Interest of C.D.P.
2023 COA 90. No. 22CA2074. Juvenile Court—Dependency and Neglect—Uniform Parentage Act—Psychological Parent.
September 28, 2023
Psychological mother had physical custody of C.D.P. since his birth. Biological mother agreed that psychological mother would adopt C.D.P., so she executed a power of attorney to psychological mother concerning C.D.P. Psychological mother and biological mother believed the adoption was complete, but no legal adoption occurred. When C.D.P. was 2 years old, the Adams County Human Services Department (the department) filed a petition in dependency and neglect for him naming psychological mother as the respondent parent. The juvenile court later gave temporary legal custody of C.D.P. to the department with physical custody to psychological mother’s parents. At a continued advisement hearing, psychological mother’s attorney told the court that the adoption had never been completed. The department then amended its petition, naming psychological mother as the respondent custodian and including biological mother and biological father as respondent parents. Psychological mother neither challenged biological mother’s addition to the case nor sought a maternity adjudication under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). Psychological mother entered a no-fault admission to the petition, and the court adjudicated C.D.P. dependent and neglected as to her, as to biological mother, and as to biological father. When the department moved to terminate the parental rights of biological mother and biological father, psychological mother’s attorney told the court that psychological mother did not have standing to participate in the proceeding. Psychological mother did not object to the termination nor otherwise seek a maternity adjudication. The juvenile court terminated biological mother’s parental rights and continued physical custody of C.D.P. with the psychological grandparents. The juvenile court subsequently dismissed psychological mother from the case.
On appeal, psychological mother contended that she should be recognized as C.D.P.’s “psychological parent” under the UPA. The UPA permits a maternity action to be brought by the department as well as by a presumed parent. Here, however, psychological mother and the department failed to timely and clearly assert a UPA maternity claim in the juvenile court. Therefore, psychological mother’s actions were insufficient to put the juvenile court on notice that she sought to have herself established as the child’s natural parent. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err by dismissing psychological mother from the case.
Psychological mother alternatively contended that the juvenile court’s dismissal order should be reversed and the case remanded to provide her an opportunity to regain custody of C.D.P. and to complete a legal adoption. She maintained that she is entitled to due process because of her custodial relationship with C.D.P. and that the juvenile court denied her these rights. Here, the department and guardian ad litem informed the juvenile court that psychological mother was not in compliance with her treatment plan so she would not be considered as an adoption option. The juvenile court had placed C.D.P. with psychological mother’s parents early in this case, and they were planning to adopt C.D.P. The department represented that it was approving this adoption, and the court found that, based on psychological mother’s noncompliance with treatment, she would not be approved as an adoptive parent. Thus, the record indicates that there was nothing else that the juvenile court could do with psychological mother in this case. Further, as a named respondent in the dependency and neglect case, she was provided statutory procedural rights throughout the proceedings, so the juvenile court did not deny psychological mother her due process rights.
The dismissal order was affirmed.