People in the Interest of T.W.
2022 COA 88. No. 21CA1331. Dependency and Neglect—Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Authority to Act—Deferred Adjudication—Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.
July 28, 2022
The Morgan County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a dependency and neglect proceeding over concerns that the child was being mistreated while in the care of mother and her husband. The child’s father lives in California, and he had not seen the child in approximately eight years when the case was filed. The juvenile court placed the child with maternal cousins and, based on the parties’ agreement, entered an order deferring whether the child should be adjudicated dependent or neglected for six months. Father moved for an allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) for the child to him and mother objected. Ultimately, the juvenile court held an evidentiary hearing on father’s APR motion, temporarily placed the child in father’s custody, and authorized video visits with mother. After a review hearing several months later, the court entered an APR order that kept the child in father’s custody, authorized parenting time for mother, and awarded decision-making authority between the parents. The court then certified the APR order into a separate domestic relations case and closed the dependency and neglect case.
On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant the APR because it had not adjudicated the child dependent or neglected. A juvenile court has continuing subject matter jurisdiction in a dependency or neglect action after the entry of a deferred adjudication but lacks authority to enter an APR order unless the child has been formally adjudicated dependent or neglected or the court has accepted an admission from the parents that the child should be adjudicated dependent or neglected. Here, mother made no admission that the child had been or should be adjudicated dependent or neglected. Because no such admission was made and no order of adjudication had entered against mother, the juvenile court lacked legal authority to enter a permanent APR order.
The judgment was vacated and the case was remanded.