IN THE INTEREST OF: JB and TLW, Minor Children.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner). TW, Appellant (Respondent),
from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable
Michael N. Deegan, Judge
Representing Appellant: Lisa K. Finkey, Gillette, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Misha E. Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E.
Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Timothy W. Miller,
Senior Assistant Attorney General.
Representing Guardian ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State
Public Defender; Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate
Counsel, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
The juvenile court adjudicated TW a neglectful parent to his
two children, JB and TLW. TW appeals the decision, arguing
that he could not be neglectful because he did not have
physical custody or control of the children at the time the
State alleged the neglectful behavior occurred. We find that
the applicable statutes do not require that a parent or
noncustodial parent have actual physical custody or control
of the children in order to be found to have neglected the
children. Accordingly, we affirm the juvenile court's
TW raises one issue in this appeal:
Whether the district court (sic) erred when it found that,
even though [TW] did not have physical custody of his
children, [TW] neglected his children pursuant to Wyoming
Statute § 14-3-202(a)(viii)?
State articulates a similar issue, although it unnecessarily
expands on it, by stating:
Neglect occurs when "those responsible for a child's
welfare" fail or refuse to provide care necessary for
the child's well-being. A parent is "a person
responsible for a child's welfare." Can a juvenile
court enter a finding of neglect against a parent when the
parent did not have physical custody or control of the child
when the neglect occurred?
On December 22, 2014, family members reported to the
Department of Family Services (DFS) that they were concerned
AB (mother of the children) was using drugs and not providing
adequate care for her children, JB, TLW and KB. DFS promptly
assigned the case to investigator Dena Knox who met with JB
and TLW's two paternal aunts, paternal uncle, and
paternal grandmother on December 23, 2014. At that meeting
Ms. Knox learned that TW was incarcerated in a Department of
Corrections treatment facility in Casper, Wyoming. Paternal
grandmother phoned AB, who then met with Ms. Knox and the
family. Ms. Knox told AB about the family's concerns, and
asked AB to provide a urine sample for drug testing. AB
refused. Ms. Knox learned AB was homeless, so she explained
the importance of a stable home for the children. At that
point, AB agreed that the children would stay with paternal
grandmother for five months so AB could get her affairs in
On January 28, 2015, the State filed a neglect petition
against AB. The State alleged that AB failed to tend to her
children's medical needs and was unable to care for her
children because she was at times under the influence of
methamphetamine and marijuana. The juvenile court entered an
order to appear, and required AB and TM (KB's father) to
appear for an initial hearing. TW, the father of JB and TLW,
was still in the custody of the Wyoming Department of
Corrections and was not ordered to appear.However, the
record shows the State intended to serve ...