In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of: L. L. P., A. J. H. and J. M. L., Parents
Dakota County District Court File Nos. 19HA-JV-12-108 19HA-JV-12-143119HA-JV-11-2060
Wright S. Walling, Stacia W. Driver, Brandon M. Zumwalt, Walling, Berg & Debele, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant grandparents)
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Jennifer L. Jackson, Assistant County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota (for respondent Dakota County Social Services)
Pamela Kigham, Guardian ad Litem, West St. Paul, Minnesota (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Stauber, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
1. An order denying a motion for adoptive placement for failure to make a prima facie case of unreasonableness on the part of the county's social services agency is appealable under Minn. Stat. § 260C.607, subd. 6(g) (2012), and Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 47.02, subd. 1.
2. A relative or foster parent requesting an order for an adoptive placement pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.607, subd. 6 (2012), must submit a motion and supporting documents establishing a prima facie showing that the county's social services agency has been unreasonable in failing to make the requested adoptive placement. In considering whether the motion for adoptive placement makes a prima facie showing and the movant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing, the district court must accept the facts as true as set forth in the movant's supporting documents, disregard contrary allegations by the agency, and consider the agency's allegations only to the extent that they explain or provide context to the movant's allegations.
3. Whether the district court properly considered a moving party's supporting documents in a motion for adoptive placement is reviewed de novo. Whether the district court erred in finding that a moving party failed to establish a prima facie case that the agency acted unreasonably in failing to make the requested adoptive placement is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Whether the district court properly denied a moving party's request for an evidentiary hearing is reviewed de novo.
4. Under Minn. Stat. § 260C.619(b) (2012), a contact or communication agreement between adoptive parents and a relative or foster parent with a child is enforceable by the district court when the agreement's terms are contained in a written court order.
Appellants, grandparents of a minor child, challenge the district court's denial of their motions for intervention, adoptive placement, and enforcement of a relative contact agreement. Respondent county argues that appellants' appeal should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The order denying appellants' motion for adoptive placement is appealable. Because the district court improperly weighed appellants' supporting documents against the county's allegations and appellants have set forth a prima facie case of unreasonableness on the part of the county, we reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing. But we affirm the district court's denial of appellants' motion to enforce a relative contact agreement.
J.P. was born on July 7, 2011. Her biological mother is L.L.P. and her biological father is M.L. L.L.P. also has 12-year-old twins with A.J.H. J.P. and the twins were adjudicated children in need of protection or services in July 2011 and placed in relative foster care the following month with L.L.P.'s sister and brother-in-law (hereinafter prospective adoptive parents). The parental rights of all three parents were later terminated.
Appellants, J.P.'s paternal grandparents, had an oral agreement with Dakota County Social Services (DCSS) and prospective adoptive parents allowing visitation with J.P. For a year and a half, J.P. spent ...