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In re Interest of A.D. - Legal Standards For Guardianships When A Parents Is Willing to provide care

Woman and her daughter with a drawThe law is comprised of both statute and caselaw. Statute sets forth the basic law as created by the legislature. However, statutes are general in nature and it is not always clear how they apply to a specific set of facts. Appellate courts interpret the statutes as they apply to a specific set of facts where a party does not agree with a trial court decision. We can learn a great deal about the law by reviewing appellate decisions.

In In Interest of A.D., 2023 COA 6, A 16-year-old son and Mother had a high-conflict relationship. Son ran away from home several times; one time for more than one month. He overdosed while away from home and after being taken to the hospital medical personnel made a report to the Department of Human Services.

As a result ,non-parents petitioned for guardianship, which was granted over Mother's objection. Mother appealed. The Colorado Court of Appeals (COA) determined that guardianship petitioners must prove by clear and convincing evidence that biological parents are unwilling or unable to exercise parental responsibilities and that a guardianship is in the best interests of the child to prevail in a guardianship action. This is because parents have a constitutional liberty interested din parenting their children, and there is a rebuttable presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.

The COA determined that Petitioners had shown that Mother was willing to provide care, however not able and that the guardianship was in the child's best interests. The Court consider, C.R.S. § 15-14-204 which empowers district courts to appoint guardianships for minors upon request from “a person interested in the welfare of a minor. “A court can do so for several reasons. As pertinent here, it may appoint a qualified guardian if it finds the parents are “unwilling or unable to exercise their parental rights” and that the appointment is “in the minor’s best interest.” C.R.S. §15-14-204(2)(c).

Also, The COA determined that a guardianship action is proper when parents are unwilling or unable to parent and that although the biological parents rights are not terminated, parental rights are suspended during the guardianship. The COA affirmed the trial court decision.

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