IN THE INTEREST OF CRA, A Minor Child.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner). DB, Appellant (Respondent), IN THE INTEREST OF CRA, A Minor Child. DB, Appellant (Respondent),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner).
Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Nena James, Judge
Representing Appellant: Douglas W. Bailey of Bailey, Stock, Harmon, Cottam, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Christina F. McCabe, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. McCabe.
Representing Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State Public Defender; Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program, a division of the Office of the State Public Defender.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
[¶1] The juvenile court temporarily placed CRA, age five, with her maternal grandmother after the Sweetwater County Attorney filed allegations that EA, who is CRA's mother, neglected her. All parties, including DB, who is CRA's father, agreed that CRA should remain in Department of Family Services (DFS) custody for placement with her grandmother under a consent decree which would last for up to one year. The consent decree provided that if EA complied with certain requirements, the neglect action would be dismissed. While the consent decree was pending, DB asserted that he should have custody of CRA because the juvenile court had not determined him to be unfit. The juvenile court entered a permanency order continuing CRA in DFS custody, and DB appealed. Shortly thereafter, the County Attorney moved to dismiss the case and terminate DFS custody of CRA, asserting that EA had completed her case plan and had complied with the consent decree. The juvenile court dismissed the case without a hearing, and DB appealed that order as well. We consolidated the appeals.
[¶2] We determine that the juvenile court properly dismissed the case without a hearing, and that other issues raised by DB are moot. Consequently, we affirm the juvenile court.
[¶3] DB lists six overlapping issues, which we re-state as follows:
1. Did the juvenile court err when it granted the State's motion to dismiss without a hearing or findings about EA's completion of the consent decree requirements?
2. Are the other issues raised by DB moot? If so, does any exception to the mootness doctrine apply?
3. When a child in an abuse/neglect case must be temporarily removed from his/her custodial parent, is the non-custodial parent constitutionally entitled to temporary custody unless the juvenile court determines he/she unfit?
[¶4] Appellant, DB, is the father of CRA, who was born in 2008. EA is CRA's mother. In January of 2010, the district court in Sweetwater County issued a judgment and order establishing CRA's paternity and placing CRA in the primary physical custody of EA. EA and CRA lived in Sweetwater County and DB lived in Laramie County.
[¶5] On Sunday, May 18, 2014, Rock Springs police arrested and incarcerated EA. They placed five-year-old CRA in protective custody with DFS. DFS then temporarily placed CRA with her maternal grandmother. Four days later the State filed a petition alleging CRA was a neglected child under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-202(a)(vii) (LexisNexis 2015). The Petition stated that the minor's father "is unknown to the state, " although DFS had filed the earlier paternity suit asserting DB was CRA's father. Nothing in the Petition mentioned shelter care for CRA under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-409 (LexisNexis 2015). The State attached a DFS temporary case plan for CRA to the Petition. The temporary case plan entirely omitted DB.
[¶6] The juvenile court issued an order setting an initial hearing for the same day the petition was filed. The order did not mention shelter care, and there is no indication that it was served on either parent. On June 10, 2014, the juvenile court signed an order for temporary custody, placing CRA into "the legal custody of the Wyoming Department of Family Services for placement in relative foster care, at or near Green River . . .." The order said it was the result of a hearing conducted on May 22, 2014, in which DB participated by telephone. The order provided that DB could have supervised visitation with CRA.
[¶7] Both DB and EA participated in a multidisciplinary team meeting on July 22, 2014. In that meeting, DB agreed that CRA should remain with her maternal grandmother. On August 8, 2014, DFS filed a "Predisposition Report" with the juvenile court. The report indicated that DB had not visited CRA at all in the two and one-half months since the case began. It stated that the "permanency goal (for CRA) is reunification with (EA) and the concurrent plan is more than likely adoption." As with the ...