Nobles County District Court File No. 53-FA-12-1196
Virginia M. Barron, Westbrook, Minnesota (for appellant)
Tanya Kay Stern, Round Lake, Minnesota (pro se respondent)
Michael Meier, Worthington, Minnesota (pro se respondent)
Michael Christofiles, Fort Lewis, Washington (pro se respondent)
Kathleen A. Kusz, Nobles County Attorney, Travis J. Smith, Assistant County Attorney, Worthington, Minnesota (for respondent county)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
Because the juvenile court exercises original and exclusive jurisdiction over the protection and custody of children in proceedings brought under the juvenile protection provisions of the Minnesota Juvenile Court Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 260C.001–.637 (2012), the family court division of district court lacks concurrent jurisdiction over a petition for de facto custody brought pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 257C.03 (2012).
Appellant-grandmother challenges the dismissal of her petition for de facto custody of her grandchildren, arguing that the family court erred by concluding that it had no concurrent jurisdiction to consider the petition because of pending child protection and permanency proceedings in juvenile court and that the dismissal of her petition violated her rights to due process. Because the family court correctly dismissed appellant's petition for lack of concurrent jurisdiction, and because appellant was not denied due process, we affirm.
On November 29, 2012, appellant Judy Stern filed a petition to be named the de facto custodian of her two minor grandchildren pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 257C.03. The respondents in this appeal include the Nobles County Family Service Agency (the county), the children's mother, and the father of each child. At the time of appellant's petition for de facto custody, the children were under the protective custody of the county in a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) proceeding. As a result of an emergency protective custody order issued by the juvenile court on September 18, 2012, the children were placed in relative foster care in appellant's home. Prior to filing the petition for de facto custody in family court, appellant filed a petition in the CHIPS proceeding under Minn. Stat. § 260C.515, subd. 4 (2012), requesting that the juvenile court award her permanent legal and physical custody of the children.
In an amended de facto custody petition filed December 18, 2012, appellant alleged that the grandchildren lived with her for one year or more during the 24 months preceding the filing of the petition and prior to their placement with her as a foster parent in the CHIPS proceeding. In response to her petition, the mother and fathers of the children agreed that appellant had provided consistent care to the children and that it would be in the children's best interests if appellant were granted full custody of the children. The county moved to dismiss appellant's petition for de facto custody, arguing that the family court lacked concurrent jurisdiction over the children and that appellant was not a de facto custodian.
In response to the county's motion to dismiss, the family court held that because the juvenile court exercises original and exclusive jurisdiction over the pending CHIPS proceeding, it did not have concurrent jurisdiction over appellant's amended petition for de facto custody of the children. The family court also concluded that appellant was statutorily ineligible to be a de facto custodian ...