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People in the Interest of E.W.

2022 COA 12. No. 20CA1724.  Termination of the Parent–Child Legal Relationship—Jurisdiction—Home State under the Uniform Child-custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

January 13, 2022

The juvenile court adjudicated 9-month-old E.W. dependent and neglected and adopted a treatment plan for the child’s parents. The child was placed with family-like kin providers in Montana through an Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Parents later moved to Montana, and the juvenile court subsequently terminated their rights.

Parents argued on appeal that the judgment must be reversed because the juvenile court lost jurisdiction under the Uniform Child-custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Under the UCCJEA, a Colorado court has jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination if Colorado is the child’s “home state” when the proceeding is commenced. A “home state” is the state where the child has lived with a parent for at least 182 consecutive days immediately before the proceeding’s commencement. The court that makes an initial child-custody determination generally retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction. A court may lose jurisdiction if the child and no parent presently reside in the home state. Losing continuing jurisdiction requires another state to acquire jurisdiction from the Colorado court. Here, parents agreed that Colorado was the child’s home state when the case was initiated and the Colorado court had jurisdiction to make the initial child-custody determination. Because Montana didn’t seek to exercise jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, and termination is not a new child-custody proceeding or a modification of a child-custody determination that requires the juvenile court to reassess its jurisdiction, the Colorado court maintained its exclusive, continuing jurisdiction.

Father also contended that the juvenile court erred by finding there were no less drastic alternatives to termination. Here, the juvenile court considered an allocation of parental responsibilities but determined there were no less drastic alternatives to termination that would meet the child’s needs, and the record supports the court’s findings.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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