2021 Colorado Code
Title 19 - Children's Code
Article 3 - Dependency and Neglect
Part 6 - Termination of the Parent-Child Legal Relationship
§ 19-3-604. Criteria for Termination

Universal Citation: CO Code § 19-3-604 (2021)
  1. The court may order a termination of the parent-child legal relationship upon the finding by clear and convincing evidence of any one of the following:
    1. That the child has been adjudicated dependent or neglected and has been abandoned by the child's parent or parents as follows:
      1. That the parent or parents have surrendered physical custody of the child for a period of six months or more and have not manifested during such period the firm intention to resume physical custody of the child or to make permanent legal arrangements for the care of the child except in cases when voluntary placement is renewable under section 19-1-115 (8)(a);
      2. That the identity of the parent of the child is unknown and has been unknown for three months or more and that reasonable efforts to identify and locate the parent in accordance with section 19-3-603 have failed;
    2. That the child is adjudicated dependent or neglected and the court finds that an appropriate treatment plan cannot be devised to address the unfitness of the parent or parents. In making such a determination, the court shall find one of the following as the basis for unfitness:
      1. An emotional illness, a behavioral or mental health disorder, or an intellectual and developmental disability of the parent of such duration or nature as to render the parent unlikely within a reasonable time to care for the ongoing physical, mental, and emotional needs and conditions of the child. The court shall make findings that the provision of reasonable accommodations and modifications pursuant to the federal “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990”, 42 U.S.C. sec. 12101 et seq., and its related amendments and implementing regulations, will not remediate the impact of the parent's disability on the health or welfare of the child.
      2. A single incident resulting in serious bodily injury or disfigurement of the child;
      3. Long-term confinement of the parent of such duration that the parent is not eligible for parole for at least six years after the date the child was adjudicated dependent or neglected or, in a county designated pursuant to section 19-1-123, if the child is under six years of age at the time a petition is filed in accordance with section 19-3-501 (2), the long-term confinement of the parent of such duration that the parent is not eligible for parole for at least thirty-six months after the date the child was adjudicated dependent or neglected and the court has found by clear and convincing evidence that no appropriate treatment plan can be devised to address the unfitness of the parent or parents;
      4. Serious bodily injury or death of a sibling due to proven parental abuse or neglect;
      5. An identifiable pattern of habitual abuse to which the child or another child has been subjected and, as a result of which, a court has adjudicated another child as neglected or dependent based upon allegations of sexual or physical abuse, or a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that such abuse has caused the death of another child;
      6. An identifiable pattern of sexual abuse of the child; or
      7. The torture of or extreme cruelty to the child, a sibling of the child, or another child of either parent;
    3. That the child is adjudicated dependent or neglected and all of the following exist:
      1. That an appropriate treatment plan approved by the court has not been reasonably complied with by the parent or parents or has not been successful or that the court has previously found, pursuant to section 19-3-508 (1)(e), that an appropriate treatment plan could not be devised. In a county designated pursuant to section 19-1-123, if a child is under six years of age at the time a petition is filed in accordance with section 19-3-501 (2), no parent or parents shall be found to be in reasonable compliance with or to have been successful at a court-approved treatment plan when:
        1. The parent has not attended visitations with the child as set forth in the treatment plan, unless good cause can be shown for failing to visit; or
        2. The parent exhibits the same problems addressed in the treatment plan without adequate improvement, including but not limited to improvement in the relationship with the child, and is unable or unwilling to provide nurturing and safe parenting sufficiently adequate to meet the child's physical, emotional, and mental health needs and conditions despite earlier intervention and treatment for the family. The court may receive testimony regarding the family's progress under the treatment plan from the child's physician or therapist, foster parent, educational or religious teachers, CASA volunteer, or caseworker.
      2. That the parent is unfit; and
      3. That the conduct or condition of the parent or parents is unlikely to change within a reasonable time.
  2. In determining unfitness, conduct, or condition for purposes of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section, the court shall find that continuation of the legal relationship between parent and child is likely to result in grave risk of death or serious bodily injury to the child or that the conduct or condition of the parent or parents renders the parent or parents unable or unwilling to give the child reasonable parental care to include, at a minimum, nurturing and safe parenting sufficiently adequate to meet the child's physical, emotional, and mental health needs and conditions. In making such determinations, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:
    1. Any one of the bases for a finding of parental unfitness set forth in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section;
    2. Conduct towards the child of a physically or sexually abusive nature;
    3. History of violent behavior;
    4. A single incident of life-threatening or serious bodily injury or disfigurement of the child;
    5. Excessive use of intoxicating liquors or controlled substances, as defined in section 18-18-102 (5), C.R.S., which affects the ability to care and provide for the child;
    6. Neglect of the child;
    7. Injury or death of a sibling due to proven parental abuse or neglect, murder, voluntary manslaughter, or circumstances in which a parent aided, abetted, or attempted the commission of or conspired or solicited to commit murder of a child's sibling;
    8. Reasonable efforts by child-caring agencies which have been unable to rehabilitate the parent or parents;
    9. That any parent who is a named respondent in the termination proceeding has had prior involvement with the department of human services concerning an incident of abuse or neglect involving the child and a subsequent incident of abuse or neglect occurs;
    10. Whether a parent committed felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of the parent;
    11. That the child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the county department for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months, unless:
      1. The child is placed with a relative of the child;
      2. The county department or a state agency has documented in the case plan, which shall be available for court review, that filing such a motion would not be in the best interests of the child;
      3. Where required to make reasonable efforts, services identified as necessary for the safe return of the child to the child's home have not been provided to the family consistent with the time period in the case plan; or
      4. The child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the county department for such period of time due to circumstances beyond the control of the parent such as incarceration of the parent for a reasonable period of time, court delays or continuances that are not attributable to the parent, or such other reasonable circumstances that the court finds are beyond the control of the parent;
    12. Whether, on two or more occasions, a child in the physical custody of the parent has been adjudicated dependent or neglected in a proceeding under this article or comparable proceedings under the laws of another state or the federal government;
    13. Whether, on one or more prior occasions, a parent has had his or her parent-child legal relationship terminated pursuant to this article or section 19-5-105 or comparable proceedings under the laws of another state or the federal government.
  3. In considering the termination of the parent-child legal relationship, the court shall give primary consideration to the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child. The court shall review and order, if necessary, an evaluation of the child's physical, mental, and emotional conditions. For the purpose of determining termination of the parent-child legal relationship, written reports and other materials relating to the child's mental, physical, and social history may be received and considered by the court along with other evidence; but the court, if so requested by the child, his parent or guardian, or any other interested party, shall require that the person who wrote the report or prepared the material appear as a witness and be subject to both direct and cross-examination. In the absence of such request, the court may order the person who prepared the report or other material to appear if it finds that the interest of the child so requires.

History. Source: L. 87: Entire title R&RE, p. 788, § 1, effective October 1. L. 90: (1)(a) amended, p. 1037, § 5, effective April 3. L. 91: (1)(a)(I) amended, p. 1159, § 5, effective July 1. L. 92: (3) amended, p. 224, § 11, effective July 1. L. 94: (1) and IP(2) amended and (2)(i) added, p. 2055, § 8, effective July 1. L. 97: IP(1) and (1)(b) amended, p. 521, § 10, effective July 1; (1)(b) amended, p. 1440, § 16, effective July 1. L. 98: (1)(b), IP(2), (2)(d), and (2)(g) amended and (2)(j) and (2)(k) added, pp. 1419, 1420, §§ 6, 7, effective July 1. L. 2001: (2)(l) and (2)(m) added, p. 499, § 1, effective May 4; (1)(b)(V) and (1)(b)(VI) amended and (1)(b)(VII) added, p. 847, § 10, effective June 1. L. 2003: (1)(c)(I)(B) amended, p. 754, § 6, effective March 25. L. 2008: (1)(a)(I) amended, p. 1894, § 67, effective August 5. L. 2012: (2)(e) amended,(HB 12-1311), ch. 281, p. 1625, § 61, effective July 1. L. 2017: (1)(b)(I) amended,(HB 17-1046), ch. 50, p. 158, § 10, effective March 16; (1)(b)(I) amended,(SB 17-242), ch. 263, p. 1318, § 167, effective May 25. L. 2018: IP(1)(b) and (1)(b)(I) amended,(HB 18-1104), ch. 164, p. 1135, § 8, effective April 25.


Editor's note:
  1. This section was contained in a title that was repealed and reenacted in 1987. Provisions of this section, as it existed in 1987, are similar to those contained in § 19-11-105 as said section existed in 1986, the year prior to the repeal and reenactment of this title.
  2. Amendments made to subsection (1)(b) by Senate Bill 97-218 and Senate Bill 97-71 were harmonized.
Cross references:

For the legislative declaration contained in the 2001 act amending subsections (1)(b)(V) and (1)(b)(VI) and enacting subsection (1)(b)(VII), see section 1 of chapter 241, Session Laws of Colorado 2001. For the legislative declaration in SB 17-242, see section 1 of chapter 263, Session Laws of Colorado 2017.

ANNOTATION

Law reviews. For casenote, “People in the Interest of A.M.D.: Are Parental Rights Terminated Too Easily in Colorado?”, see 55 U. Colo. L. Rev. 423 (1984). For article, “The Role of Parents' Counsel in Dependency and Neglect Proceedings -- Part II”, see 14 Colo. Law. 794 (1985). For article, “Colorado's Implementation of the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act”, see 28 Colo. Law. 73 (Mar. 1999). For article, “Interested Parties in Juvenile Dependency and Neglect Cases”, see 33 Colo. Law. 109 (Aug. 2004).

Annotator's note. The following annotations include cases decided under former provisions similar to this section.

Section not violative of equal protection. Where lack of an extended family or financial resources were not factors in termination and where termination is based on a parent's failure or inability to comply with a treatment plan, parental unfitness, and unlikelihood of change in the future, a termination of parental rights is not violative of equal protection under the law. People in Interest of M.M., 726 P.2d 1108 (Colo. 1986).

Subsection (1)(b)(III) does not violate due process. The court recognizes that a parent has a fundamental right in the care, custody, and management of a child. The state has a compelling interest to assure that a Colorado child is neither neglected nor dependent, and that a stable home atmosphere exists for the child. Therefore, if a parent cannot provide such an environment within a reasonable time, the state has a compelling interest in terminating the rights of the parent. People in Interest of E.I.C., 958 P.2d 511 (Colo. App. 1998).

Statute does not violate equal protection clause rights of mentally ill parents because parental rights of such parents are not terminable on the basis of mental illness alone. People in Interest of C.B., 740 P.2d 11 (Colo. 1987); People in Interest of C.Z., 2015 COA 87 , 360 P.3d 228.

Section not violative of due process. This section is sufficiently definite to provide notice of the conduct or conditions upon which termination of the relationship can be predicated, adequately minimizes the potential for arbitrary and discriminatory application, and gives the courts sufficient guidelines to enable them to apply the law consistently and in accord with legislative intent, and therefore does not violate due process of law. People in Interest of M.S.H., 656 P.2d 1294 (Colo. 1983).

Subsection (1) is permissive with court. The court is granted discretion in making its decision to terminate parental rights. People in Interest of K.C., 685 P.2d 1377 (Colo. App. 1984).

A motion to terminate is sufficient so long as it is couched in the statutory language set forth in subsection (1). People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

A written adjudicatory order, a minute order reflecting the approval of a treatment plan, and a copy of the treatment plan are sufficient to establish for purposes of subsection (1)(c) that the children were adjudicated dependent or neglected. That the adjudicatory order did not become appealable until the judgment of termination was entered does not undermine or affect either its validity or its probative value. People ex rel. J.M., 74 P.3d 475 (Colo. App. 2003).

The requirements of subsection (1)(c) are not jurisdictional. The court's failure to enter adjudicatory order was not an error affecting the court's jurisdiction to enter termination order. Mother admitted the child was dependent and neglected, the court accepted that admission, and mother voluntarily participated in the termination proceedings without objecting to the absence of an adjudicatory order, thereby waiving any procedural error arising from subsection (1)(c). People ex rel. N.D.V., 224 P.3d 410 (Colo. App. 2009); People in Interest of J.W., 2017 CO 105, 406 P.3d 853.

The term “reasonable parental care” is not too indefinite to satisfy constitutional standards. This term must be interpreted in light of the specific factors in subsection (2) which the court is directed to consider in determining whether a parent is unwilling or unable to give a child reasonable parental care. People in Interest of M.S.H., 656 P.2d 1294 (Colo. 1983).

Termination of parental rights is a decision of paramount gravity, and the state must exercise extreme caution in terminating such rights. People in Interest of M.C.C., 641 P.2d 306 (Colo. App. 1982).

Termination is an unfortunate but necessary remedy when all reasonable means of establishing a satisfactory parent-child relationship have been tried and found wanting. It is not a desired outcome for which the state should strive from the inception of a dependency or neglect proceeding. People in Interest of A.M.D., 648 P.2d 625 (Colo. 1982).

Strict compliance with termination standards required. Strict compliance by the trial court with the appropriate standards for termination of a parent-child relationship is an absolute necessity. People in Interest of M.C.C., 641 P.2d 306 (Colo. App. 1982).

This section sets forth the criteria for termination of the parent-child legal relationship and such criteria does not require a child to be removed from her parents' home prior to the termination of such relationship. People in Interest of A.J., 757 P.2d 1165 (Colo. App. 1988).

The court must hold a dispositional hearing and consider an appropriate treatment plan at the time or within 45 days of declaring the child dependent or neglected before terminating parental rights. People ex rel. D.R.W, 91 P.3d 453 (Colo. App. 2004).

Consideration of alternatives to termination. A trial court must consider and eliminate less drastic alternatives to termination of the parent-child relationship. People in Interest of M.M., 726 P.2d 1108 (Colo. 1986); People ex rel. J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790 (Colo. App. 2002); People ex rel. D.B-J., 89 P.3d 530 (Colo. App. 2004).

If a trial court's findings conform to the statutory criteria for termination and are adequately supported by evidence in the record, a reviewing court may presume that, in the absence of any indication in the record to the contrary, the trial court considered and eliminated less drastic alternatives to termination. People in Interest of M.M., 726 1108 (Colo. 1986); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006); People in Interest of R.J.B., 2021 COA 4 , 482 P.3d 519.

Subsection (1) does not require that the court explicitly consider “less drastic alternatives” before ordering termination, and court's termination order concluding that the child had been adjudicated dependent and neglected, that the parent had not complied with and could not comply with the approved treatment plan, that the parent was an unfit parent, and that her condition was unlikely to change within a reasonable time was sufficient to conform to termination requirements of this section, and a reviewing court may presume that, in the absence of any indication in the record to the contrary, the trial court considered and eliminated less drastic alternatives. C.S. v. People, 83 P.3d 627 (Colo. 2004).

No error where court failed to consider placement of children with paternal grandparents. Although the department must evaluate a reasonable number of persons identified by the parents as possible placement alternatives, it has no obligation to independently identify and evaluate other placement alternatives. People ex rel. Z.P., 167 P.3d 211 (Colo. App. 2007).

To support termination of the parent-child relationship pursuant to subsection (1), the evidence must establish that: (1) The child has been adjudicated dependent or neglected; (2) an appropriate treatment plan, approved by the court, has not been complied with by the parent or has not been successful; (3) the parent is unfit; and (4) the parent's conduct or condition is unlikely to change within a reasonable time. People ex rel. A.N.W., 976 P.2d 365 (Colo. App. 1999); People ex rel. B.C., 122 P.3d 1067 (Colo. App. 2005); People ex rel. N.A.T., 134 P.3d 535 (Colo. App. 2006); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

In determining whether a parent's conduct or condition is unlikely to change within a reasonable time, a trial court may consider whether any change has occurred during the pendency of the dependency and neglect proceeding, the parent's social history, and the chronic or long-term nature of the parent's conduct or condition. People ex rel. B.C., 122 P.3d 1067 (Colo. App. 2005).

A reasonable time is not an indefinite time, and it must be determined by considering the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child. People ex rel. B.C., 122 P.3d 1067 (Colo. App. 2005).

Appellate court will presume that the trial court considered less drastic alternatives prior to ordering termination of mother's parental rights, where criteria for termination and findings made pursuant to those criteria were supported by clear and convincing evidence. People in Interest of D.M.W., 752 P.2d 587 (Colo. App. 1987).

Standards for burden of proof meeting due process requirements. Due process of law is accorded to the parties to a termination of parental rights proceeding when the grounds for termination under this section are established by clear and convincing evidence and the underlying dependency or neglect determination is established by a preponderance of the evidence. People in Interest of A.M.D., 648 P.2d 625 (Colo. 1982); People in Interest of L.L., 715 P.2d 334 (Colo. 1986).

Sole purpose of a treatment plan is to reunite a parent and child in the kind of relationship which will be beneficial to both, under conditions which are designed to eliminate those factors which necessitated society's intrusion into the family in the first instance. Thus, the appropriateness of such a plan can only be measured by examining the likelihood of its success in accomplishing this purpose. People in Interest of B.J.D., 626 P.2d 727 (Colo. App. 1981); People in Interest of C.B., 707 P.2d 1046 (Colo. App. 1985); People in Interest of J.R., 711 P.2d 701 (Colo. App. 1985).

The purpose of a treatment plan is to preserve the parent-child relationship, whenever possible, by assisting the parent in overcoming those problems which led to the dependency adjudication. People in Interest of M.M., 726 P.2d 1108 (Colo. 1986); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

Appropriateness of treatment plan. The appropriateness of a treatment plan must be evaluated by examining the likelihood of success in accomplishing its purpose. The fact that the plan is not successful does not mean that it was inappropriate. People in Interest of M.M., 726 P.2d 1108 (Colo. 1986); People ex rel. J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790 (Colo. App. 2002); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

A court may hold a dispositional hearing and find that no appropriate treatment plan can be devised for a parent after it has already approved an initial treatment plan for the parent at a prior hearing. The purposes of the Colorado Children's Code -- to preserve and strengthen family ties and protect the best interests of the child -- require courts to have the flexibility to modify or adopt new dispositional orders. People in Interest of Z.P.S., , 369 P.3d 814 .

A court may rely on evidence that was previously considered, or could have been presented, at a prior hearing when it modifies its orders at a subsequent hearing to hold that an appropriate treatment plan cannot be devised. People in Interest of Z.P.S., 2016 COA 20 , 369 P.3d 814.

Although the treatment plan did not at its inception specifically address father's mental health needs, by acquiescing in the plan father is precluded from arguing that it was not appropriate. People ex rel. M.S., 129 P.3d 1086 (Colo. App. 2005).

It is incumbent on the parent to bring forth any known deficiencies in the treatment plan prior to the termination hearing. People ex rel. M.S., 129 P.3d 1086 (Colo. App. 2005).

Father's acquiescence to his treatment plan at the dispositional hearing, and his subsequent failure to object to the services supporting the reasonable efforts to rehabilitate him, may not be used to bar appellate review of the evidence supporting the juvenile court's finding that the county department of human services proved by clear and convincing evidence that reasonable efforts were unsuccessful in rehabilitating father. People ex rel. S.N-V., 300 P.3d 911 (Colo. App. 2011).

Parent's failure to persist in his or her request for a full neuropsychological evaluation prior to the termination hearing did not estop him or her from challenging on appeal the adequacy of the juvenile court's finding as to the reasonable efforts to rehabilitate him or her. People ex rel. S.N-V., 300 P.3d 911 (Colo. App. 2011).

Respondent parent's position regarding his or her treatment plan at the time of its adoption, or at any point thereafter prior to the termination hearing, is not equivalent to, or a substitute for, a juvenile court's finding at the termination hearing by clear and convincing evidence that the services provided to the respondent parent were appropriate but unsuccessful in rendering him or her a fit parent. People ex rel. S.N-V., 300 P.3d 911 (Colo. App. 2011).

Treatment plan represents an affirmative attempt by the state to preserve the parent-child relationship whenever possible. People in Interest of C.A.K., 652 P.2d 603 (Colo. 1982).

Questions concerning a child's health and safety are purview of trial court , which retains ultimate decision-making authority in the case. The trial court itself must make decisions regarding visitation and may not delegate this function to third parties. People ex rel. B.C., 122 P.3d 1067 (Colo. App. 2005).

Prior to 1984, termination without formulation of treatment plan not permitted. The requirement of an “appropriate” treatment plan in subsection (1)(b)(I) did not signify a legislative intent to permit the termination of a parent-child relationship without formulating any treatment plan. People in Interest of M.C.C., 641 P.2d 306 (Colo. App. 1982).

Criteria for judging success of treatment plan. A treatment plan can only be judged to be successful if it results in rendering the parent fit or if it corrects the conduct or condition which led to intervention by the state into the parent-child relationship. Accordingly, no explicit criteria to determine success need be included in the treatment plan itself. People in Interest of C.A.K., 652 P.2d 603 (Colo. 1982); People in Interest of M.P., 690 P.2d 1300 (Colo. App. 1984).

The standards to be applied in evaluating the results of a treatment plan are those contained in the Colorado Children's Code. If the plan improves conditions or corrects unfit parental conduct, it will be judged successful. Explicit criteria for success need not be included in the treatment plan itself. People ex rel. L.D., 671 P.2d 940 (Colo. 1983); People in Interest of C.B., 707 P.2d 1046 (Colo. App. 1985).

Treatment plan required even though parent incarcerated. The fact that a particular parent is incarcerated at the time of an adjudication of dependency or neglect may often render more difficult the crafting of a meaningful and workable treatment plan. However, such single circumstance does not per se prohibit the creation and implementation of a treatment program appropriate for the goal the general assembly has indicated it should achieve -- the building or rebuilding of a healthy parent-child relationship. People in Interest of M.C.C., 641 P.2d 306 (Colo. App. 1982); People in Interest of E.I.C., 958 P.2d 511 (Colo. App. 1998).

A court could conclude that formulation of treatment plan for parent incarcerated for more than six years is possible. The court could conclude that, even though a parent may be confined for six years or more, the age of the child, the existence of capable members of an extended family, or other factors may allow the formulation of an appropriate treatment plan and that considerations of the child's welfare would not support a termination order. People in Interest of E.I.C., 958 P.2d 511 (Colo. App. 1998).

Subsection (1)(b) must be read in pari materia with § 19-3-508 (1)(e) since they are part of the same code and pertain to the same subject. People in Interest of T.W., 797 P.2d 821 (Colo. App. 1990).

Treatment plan was an “appropriate treatment plan” within meaning of statute requiring court to find that an appropriate treatment plan approved by court has not been complied with by parent or has not been successful to terminate parent-child legal relationship. People in Interest of L.L., 715 P.2d 334 (Colo. 1986).

In deciding whether to terminate parental rights, the juvenile court should consider whether reasonable accommodations were made for a parent's disability when determining whether the treatment plan was appropriate and reasonable efforts were made to rehabilitate the parent. What constitutes a reasonable accommodation is based on an individual assessment. Further, in considering whether reasonable accommodations can be made for a parent's disability, the paramount concern must remain the child's health and safety. The requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act do not protect a parent who, even by virtue of his or her disability, poses a safety risk to the child. People in Interest of S.K., 2019 COA 36 , 440 P.3d 1240.

The provisions of subsection (1)(b)(I) were added to the criteria for termination of the parent-child legal relation to cover those situations in which an appropriate treatment plan could not be devised and, thus, would not succeed in reuniting the family. People in Interest of C.S.M., 805 P.2d 1129 (Colo. App. 1990).

Substantial compliance with treatment plan not determinative. If compliance with the treatment plan was not successful in correcting the conduct or condition which initially led to state intervention, termination of the parent-child legal relationship is proper. People in Interest of D.M.W., 752 P.2d 587 (Colo. App. 1987).

Fact that a treatment plan is not ultimately successful does not mean that it was therefore inappropriate since, in many cases, it is virtually impossible to devise a plan which will guarantee success. People in Interest of L.G., 737 P.2d 431 (Colo. App. 1987).

When mother had not responded to out-patient treatment and evidence showed that no in-patient program for the mother's particular problem was available, the trial court was correct in concluding that an appropriate treatment plan could not be devised. The argument that in-patient treatment must be offered in order to determine whether it will be successful is rejected. People in Interest of C.S.M., 805 P.2d 1129 (Colo. App. 1990).

Trial court's finding that mother's conduct or condition was unlikely to change within a reasonable time to meet the child's needs was supported by the record. People in Interest of V.W., 958 P.2d 1132 (Colo. App. 1998).

Information from previous hearings may be considered. There is no prohibition by statute or common law that would prohibit a trial court from considering information gleaned from previous hearings on unsuccessful petitions to terminate parent-child relationships when making determinations of fact in resolving a pending petition to terminate the relationship. However, additional facts are required to justify a trial court's change in its conclusions from a previous hearing at which it refused to terminate such relationship. People in Interest of J.R., 711 P.2d 701 (Colo. App. 1985).

Termination of the parental relationship for children of native American status is governed by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and the standard under that act is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. People in Interest of C.A.J., 709 P.2d 604 (Colo. App. 1985).

When the federal ICWA applies, termination of parental rights may not be ordered unless it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that continued custody of the child by the parent is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. People ex rel. A.N.W., 976 P.2d 365 (Colo. App. 1999).

“Active efforts” under the federal ICWA means more than reasonable efforts but does not mean persisting with futile efforts. The department of human services is not required to provide active efforts to a parent who voluntarily absents himself or herself from a proceeding and cannot be located. People ex rel. A.V., 2012 COA 210 , 297 P.3d 1019.

The federal ICWA does not require expert testimony to support a trial court's finding that “active efforts” were made to prevent breakup of an Indian family. People ex rel. A.V., 2012 COA 210 , 297 P.3d 1019.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not a defense at parental rights termination proceedings. The focus of the hearing is on the welfare of the child. Regardless of the parent's special needs or restricted capabilities, the child is entitled to a minimum level of parental care. People ex rel. T.B., 12 P.3d 1221 (Colo. App. 2000).

The ADA does not categorically pre-empt section. If the court determines that an appropriate treatment plan cannot be devised to address the unfitness of parents with multiple mental health diagnoses so that the child's minimum level of care is provided, then it is justified in terminating the parent-child relationship. The ADA cannot be raised as a defense to such a termination of parental rights. People in Interest of C.Z., 2015 COA 87 , 360 P.3d 228.

Clear and convincing evidence is the appropriate constitutional standard of proof in proceedings involving termination of a parent-child relationship. People in Interest of A.M.D., 648 P.2d 625 (Colo. 1982); People in Interest of S.T., 678 P.2d 1054 (Colo. App. 1983); People in Interest of M.P., 690 P.2d 1300 (Colo. App. 1984); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

The clear and convincing standard strikes an appropriate balance between the risk of an erroneous termination of the parental relationship, on the one hand, and the parens patriae interest of the state in promoting the child's welfare, on the other. People in Interest of A.M.D., 648 P.2d 625 (Colo. 1982).

“Clear and convincing” standard applied prospectively. The “clear and convincing evidence” standard in proceedings involving the termination of a parent-child relationship will be given only prospective effect, and will apply only to termination hearings which commenced after March 24, 1982. People in Interest of C.A.K., 652 P.2d 603 (Colo. 1982); People in Interest of C.L.I., 710 P.2d 1183 (Colo. App. 1985).

Statute need not enunciate all factors which may lead to termination. Fundamental fairness does not require a statute to enunciate in all-encompassing examples, or exactly described acts, precisely how poorly a parent can treat a child before risking loss of parental rights. People v. Jennings, 641 P.2d 276 (Colo. 1982).

Subsection (1), when read as a whole and applying ordinary meaning to the language, permits termination so long as at least one of the statutory grounds has been established by clear and convincing evidence but does not limit the court to only one statutory ground for the termination order. People ex rel. D.C.-M.S., 111 P.3d 559 (Colo. App. 2005).

When a parent is acquitted of criminal charges related to sexual abuse of his or her child and the court cannot find by clear and convincing evidence that the abuse occurred, the parent's failure to admit to the sexual abuse as part of the treatment protocol is insufficient to support termination of parental rights. People in Interest of L.M., 2018 COA 57 M, 433 P.3d 114.

Mother not denied due process because she did not know on which criteria the court would terminate the parent-child relationship because motion alleged both statutory grounds as a basis for termination, giving her notice that court could move forward on either or both grounds. People ex rel. D.C.-M.S., 111 P.3d 559 (Colo. App. 2005).

The court may still consider mother's incarceration under subsection (2) even though she was eligible for parole in fewer than 36 months following the child's adjudication. That subsection requires the court to consider incarceration if a parent must wait longer than 36 months before becoming eligible for parole, but it does not preclude the court from considering the effect of a lesser period of incarceration. People in Interest of M.H., 10 P.3d 713 (Colo. App. 2000).

A court may consider parental incarceration as a factor in determining parental fitness and, thereby, as a factor affecting the needs of a child who has been adjudicated dependent or neglected. If a parent cannot be expected to provide a stable home atmosphere for the child within a reasonable period, the state's compelling interest in the welfare of the subject child justifies the termination of that parent's rights. K.D. v. People, 139 P.3d 695 (Colo. 2006).

It was within the court's statutory discretion to consider the time the child spent in foster care while the mother was incarcerated. People in Interest of M.H., 10 P.3d 713 (Colo. App. 2000).

The policies underlying both the expedited procedures and sibling group preference do not permit the application of the shorter incarceration period so as to terminate parental rights concerning an older child whose parent is subject to the longer incarceration period. The termination of parental rights concerning the older child must still be subject to the longer allowable incarceration period. People ex rel. T.M., 240 P.3d 542 (Colo. App. 2010).

Where a parent chooses to remain in a relationship with a person who poses a threat to the welfare of the child, the conduct of that parent may prevent him or her from providing protection adequate to meet the child's needs. Accordingly, that parent may be found unfit under subsection (2). That the person who poses a threat happens to be the other parent does not alter this analysis. People ex rel. C.T.S., 140 P.3d 332 (Colo. App. 2006).

Parental admission of dependency and neglect. Where a parent, with the advice of counsel and with notice of the allegations of dependency and neglect, admits the petition, this meets the requirements of subsection (1)(b). People ex rel. J.F., 672 P.2d 544 (Colo. App. 1983).

The credibility of witnesses, the sufficiency, probative effect, and weight of the evidence, and the inferences drawn therefrom are within the province of the trial court; therefore, the trial court's findings and conclusions will not be disturbed unless they have no support in the record. People in Interest of A.J., 757 P.2d 1165 (Colo. App. 1988).

Subsection (3) applicable to determination of unfitness, not to termination. Subsection (3) does not apply directly to court's decision as to termination, but to the court's determination whether the parents are unfit. People in Interest of K.C., 685 P.2d 1377 (Colo. App. 1984).

An unfit parent is one whose conduct or condition renders him or her unable to give the child reasonable parental care. Reasonable parental care requires, at a minimum, that the parent provide nurturing and protection adequate to meet the child's physical, emotional, and mental health needs. People ex rel. A.N.W., 976 P.2d 365 (Colo. App. 1999).

The need for permanency alone is not sufficient to terminate parents' constitutional interest in the care and custody of their children. “Semi-fitness” not only does not have a generally accepted meaning, but is also not a basis upon which to terminate parental rights under this section. People in Interest of S.R.N.J-S, 2020 COA 12 , __ P.3d __.

Primary consideration given to needs of children. Trial court acted within proper discretion in giving primary consideration to physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of children, without attempting to treat mother for insight disorder identified by psychologist called at trial. People in Interest of C.B., 707 P.2d 1046 (Colo. App. 1985).

Although the term “emotional illness” in this section can be subject to different interpretations, this section is not unconstitutional because of vagueness. People in Interest of S.J.C., 776 P.2d 1103 (Colo. 1989).

The term “emotional illness” does not require a showing that parent has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychosis, or manic depression. The general assembly's use of both “emotional illness” and “mental illness” suggests that these terms are to be given different meanings. For a court to find that a parent has an emotional illness, it is sufficient that there be evidence that the parent has longstanding emotional conditions that render the parent unable to provide for the needs of a child. People ex rel. K.D., 155 P.3d 634 (Colo. App. 2007).

Conviction for purposes of subsection (1)(b)(III) means a judgment of conviction in a trial court and not a final determination of conviction after appeal. To hold otherwise would violate the important policies of the Colorado Children's Code which seeks to protect the best interests of the child. People in Interest of T.T., 845 P.2d 539 (Colo. App. 1992).

Evidence sufficient to sustain termination of parent-child relationship. People in Interest of V.A.E.Y.H.D., 199 Colo. 148 , 605 P.2d 916 (1980); People in Interest of S.T., 678 P.2d 1054 (Colo. App. 1983); People in Interest of M.P., 690 P.2d 1300 (Colo. App. 1984); People in Interest of C.B., 707 P.2d 1046 (Colo. App. 1985); People in Interest of A.H., 736 P.2d 427 (Colo. App. 1987); People in Interest of C.B., 740 P.2d 11 (Colo. 1987); People in Interest of A.J., 757 P.2d 1165 (Colo. App. 1988); People in Interest of T.T., 845 P.2d 539 (Colo. App. 1992); People ex rel. A.D., 56 P.3d 1246 (Colo. App. 2002).

Evidence not sufficient to sustain termination of parent-child relationship. People in Interest of C.L.I., 710 P.2d 1183 (Colo. App. 1985).

Evidence sufficient to find parents unfit. Trial court properly found parents to be unfit based on evidence of emotional illness, mental illness, mental deficiency, neglect of children, and evidence that reasonable efforts by county department of social services and mental health center had failed to rehabilitate parents. People ex rel. L.D., 671 P.2d 940 (Colo. 1983).

Parent's refusal to document sobriety through random urinalysis testing and to participate in substance abuse treatment shows that parent was not committed to meeting the child's needs and was unfit to parent. People ex rel. K.T., 129 P.3d 1080 (Colo. App. 2005); People ex rel. D.P., 181 P.3d 403 (Colo. App. 2008).

Parent's refusal to acknowledge impact of prenatal substance abuse on child prevented parent from providing reasonable parental care. People ex rel. K.T., 129 P.3d 1080 (Colo. App. 2005).

Record supports the trial court's finding that the department of social services made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate mother. Even though services specifically designed for individuals with disabilities were not provided to mother for almost one year, intensive in-home family preservation services adapted to meet her special needs were provided immediately. People ex rel. J.M., 74 P.3d 475 (Colo. App. 2003).

Father not given reasonable amount of time to comply with treatment plan where treatment plan was entered on March 6, the department filed motion to terminate father's parental rights on March 29, and termination hearing was scheduled for June 11. Once the court determines that a treatment plan can be devised for a parent and approves a treatment plan, the parent must be given a reasonable amount of time to comply with its provisions. People ex rel. D.Y., 176 P.3d 874 (Colo. App. 2007).

Where there is no indication that father was asked to address any potential causes of children's trauma other than the criminal charges of which he was acquitted, the juvenile court erred in concluding that father's failure to address other possible issues, and the children's corresponding trauma, demonstrated that he was an unfit parent. Thus, granting custody of the children to mother was not a viable less drastic alternative to termination. People in Interest of L.M., 2018 COA 57 , 433 P.3d 114.

Juvenile court's order to retain legal custody of children in department, appoint foster parents as permanent legal guardians, direct that children have no further contact with mother, and retain continuing jurisdiction is not the functional equivalent of a termination of mother's parental rights. Judge's order is supported by the record, but leaves open the possibility that mother could seek a modification of order to regain custody or obtain parenting time or other relief. People in Interest of R.W. and T.W., 989 P.2d 240 (Colo. App. 1999), aff'd sub nom. L.L. v. People, 10 P.3d 1271 (Colo. 2000).

While placement of a child in the guardianship of family members with limited or no parental contact may be a viable alternative to termination in some cases, in other instances there may be estrangement between the parents and the guardians such that nothing short of termination will be in the child's best interests. People ex rel. J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790 (Colo. App. 2002).

Findings that support an order terminating the parent-child relationship are adequate as long as they conform to the statutory criteria set forth in this section. People in Interest of A.J., 757 P.2d 1165 (Colo. App. 1988); People ex rel. J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790 (Colo. App. 2002).

Order for termination not supported where court did not make findings that conform to the statutory criteria. While the order recited evidence adduced at trial and provided citations to relevant statutory and case law, the order drew no conclusions linking the recited facts to the relevant law. People ex rel. A.G., 264 P.3d 615 (Colo. App. 2010), rev'd on other grounds, 262 P.3d 646 (Colo. 2011); People in Interest of B.C., 2018 COA 45 , 418 P.3d 538.

A treatment plan need not be devised if a parent has subjected a sibling of the child who is the subject of the dependency and neglect proceeding to a gravely disabling injury. People in Interest of T.W., 797 P.2d 821 (Colo. App. 1990).

Failure to reduce termination order to writing and to sign and to date the order at the time of the termination hearing does not render the termination improper. People ex rel. A.W., 74 P.3d 497 (Colo. App. 2003).

Finding of a conflict of interest between department and parents does not necessarily require a reversal of decision. People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006).

Appellate court must apply clearly erroneous standard of review to trial court's findings of fact. In reversing trial court's order terminating the parent-child legal relationship, the appellate court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the trial court concerning witness credibility, and the sufficiency, weight, and probative value of the evidence. People ex rel. A.J.L., 243 P.3d 244 (Colo. 2010).

Trial court not required to give more weight to more recent evidence. The weighing of evidence is within the trial court's discretion after considering witness credibility and the sufficiency and probative value of the evidence. Trial court could have reasonably found that the recent, more positive evaluation of mother deserved less weight because the court could neither review the report nor adequately evaluate its veracity. People ex rel. A.J.L., 243 P.3d 244 (Colo. 2010).

Proceedings commenced before July 1, 1977. For judicial criteria for termination applicable to dependency proceedings commenced before July 1, 1977, see People in Interest of E.A., 638 P.2d 278 (Colo. 1981).

Applied in People in Interest of H.A.C. v. D.C.C., 198 Colo. 260 , 599 P.2d 881 (1979); People in Interest of O.E.P., 654 P.2d 312 (Colo. 1982); People in Interest of P.N., 663 P.2d 253 (Colo. 1983); People in Interest of M.H., 683 P.2d 807 (Colo. App. 1984); People ex rel. T.D., 140 P.3d 205 (Colo. App. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1020 and 549 U.S. 1024 (2006); People ex rel. S.M.A.M.A., 172 P.3d 958 (Colo. App. 2007); People ex rel. T.M., 240 P.3d 542 (Colo. App. 2010); People in Interest of C.W.B., 2017 COA 68 , 461 P.3d 521; People in Interest of I.J.O., 2019 COA 151 , 465 P.3d 66.


Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. Colorado may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.