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People in the Interest of M.R.M.

2021 COA 22. No. 17CA0255.  Dependency and Neglect—Final Appealable Order—Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.

February 25, 2021

The juvenile court entered an order allocating parental responsibilities for the three children subject to this case between father, M.M., and mother (the APR order). Approximately two weeks after the court entered the APR order, it entered an order terminating its jurisdiction and closing the case. Mother appealed from the latter order more than 21 days after the APR was entered, and the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court granted mother’s petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the first judgment on appeal, and remanded the case for reconsideration.

Mother argued that the APR order wasn’t final and appealable because the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to consider several issues. However, the question before the Court of Appeals was whether the order appealed from was final and appealable, not whether the juvenile court had jurisdiction to enter an APR order. And an APR order is final and appealable under C.A.R. 3.4(a) and applicable case law.

Mother further argued that the APR order wasn’t a final appealable order because it didn’t fully resolve the rights and liabilities of the parties as to paternity, support, and parental responsibilities with respect to child M.A.M. However, there was no need for a paternity proceeding to determine which of two presumptive fathers should be recognized as M.A.M.’s legal father, and the APR order addressed mother’s rights to visitation, parenting time, and other matters relevant to the APR between her and M.M. Further, mother did not attempt to initiate a paternity proceeding herself, which she could have done if she believed that resolving M.A.M.’s paternity was necessary to protect her legal rights.

Mother also contended that the APR wasn’t final because it was subject to revision. But once the juvenile court entered the APR and directed that it be certified to the district court, jurisdiction to modify was transferred to the district court, and there was nothing further for the juvenile court to do. And all orders concerning parenting time and decision-making responsibility are subject to modification under appropriate circumstances.

Lastly, mother argued that the APR order wasn’t final because when it was entered there was an outstanding paternity summons for a putative father and M.M.’s deferred adjudication hadn’t been addressed. As discussed above, the entry of the APR order ended the dependency and neglect proceeding and transferred jurisdiction over the allocation of parental responsibilities to the district court. Because the APR was the case-ending order, there was no need to enter an additional order to dismiss the case. In addition, there is no authority for the proposition that the existence of an outstanding summons is sufficient to prevent the court from closing the case in which the summons was issued. Here, the juvenile court entered an APR order and ordered that it be certified into an existing custody proceeding in the district court as to the older two children and certified into a new domestic relations case as to the youngest child. The APR order entered was final and appealable, but mother did not appeal from that order. The juvenile court’s order terminating its jurisdiction, which mother appealed from, was superfluous.

Because mother’s notice of appeal was filed more than 21 days after the entry of the APR order, her appeal was untimely, and the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

The appeal was dismissed with prejudice.

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

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