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People in the Interest of R.J.B.

2021 COA 4. No. 20CA0859.  Juvenile Law—Dependency and Neglect—Termination of Parent-Child Legal Relationship—Due Process—Remote Hearing.

January 21, 2021

The Denver Department of Human Services moved to terminate mother’s legal relationship with her child. The juvenile court denied mother’s motion to continue the termination hearing. In accordance with a juvenile court directive, the court held the contested termination hearing via the electronic platform Webex, and it terminated mother’s parental rights.

On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court abused its discretion by denying her request to continue the termination hearing because the need to hold the hearing via Webex constituted good cause. Because the child was under age 6 when the dependency and neglect petition was filed, the expedited permanency planning provisions applied. Therefore, mother had to show good cause for the continuance and that the delay would be in the child’s best interests. Here, mother failed to show that the Webex hearing would create a fundamentally unfair proceeding and thus did not establish good cause. She also did not show that delaying the hearing was in the child’s best interests. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion.

Mother also argued that the juvenile court violated her right to due process by conducting the termination hearing via Webex. However, mother received notice of the hearing and had the opportunity to be heard, and she was represented by court-appointed counsel throughout the proceeding. Further, the juvenile court provided mother with substantially similar procedures to those available at an in-person termination hearing. Therefore, mother was afforded due process.

Mother further argued that the juvenile court erred by determining that an allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) to the child’s godmother wasn’t a less drastic alternative to termination. Here, mother was unfit to care for the child, and an APR would not provide the child with the permanency and stability he needed. Therefore, the juvenile court did not err.

The judgment was affirmed.

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

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