People in Interest of L.R.B., 2019 COA 85

This decision concerns a juvenile court’s denial of the Navajo Nation’s request to transfer jurisdiction to the tribal court following the termination of the parent-child legal relationship. Although the Montezuma County Department of Human Services, GAL, and children stipulated to the transfer of jurisdiction, the former foster parents opposed transfer.

First, the division of the Court of Appeals considers whether the juvenile court’s order denying the tribe’s request to transfer jurisdiction is a final, appealable order. While the order at issue is interlocutory, the division concludes that pursuant to the collateral order doctrine it may immediately be appealed. Second, the division holds that the former foster parents lack standing to oppose the Navajo Nation’s motion to transfer jurisdiction, noting that they no longer have intervenor status as the children no longer are placed with them, they do not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in continuing the relationship with the children, and civil joinder rules do not apply. Finally, the division concludes that the juvenile court erred in denying the Navajo Nation’s request to transfer jurisdiction. The division rejects the argument that ICWA only allows transfer requests during foster care placement and termination of parental rights proceedings, reasoning that § 19-1-126 provisions in effect at the time of the tribe’s motion did permit the juvenile court to consider transfer requests in pre-adoption and adoption proceedings (the division notes that HB19-1232 amended this statute). Because relevant § 19-1-126 provisions placed the burden on the party opposing transfer, former foster parents lacked standing to oppose the motion, and no party with standing opposed the motion, the burden of opposing the transfer was not met and the court erred in denying the motion.

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