State of Utah, in the interest of A.J.B., a person under eighteen years of age.
State of Utah, Appellee. C.C., Appellant,
District Juvenile Court, Duchesne Department The Honorable
Keith E. Eddington No. 1100877.
Herbert Wm. Gillespie, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes, Carol L.C. Verdoia, and John M. Peterson, Attorneys
Pierce, Guardian ad Litem
Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory
K. Orme and Kate A. Toomey concurred.
C.C. (Mother) appeals the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights to A.J.B. (Child), and asks
us to consider two arguments. First, Mother argues that the
juvenile court did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate the
case, and asserts instead that the case should have proceeded
in the Ute Tribal Juvenile Court (the tribal court). Second,
Mother argues that, at a minimum, the juvenile court should
have contacted the tribal court to discuss jurisdictional
issues prior to commencing its termination
hearing. Because we conclude that the juvenile
court properly exercised its jurisdiction and did not abuse
its discretion in declining to contact the tribal court, we
In June 2014, the State of Utah, Division of Child and Family
Services (DCFS), filed a Verified Petition for Protective
Services (the Petition), alleging that Mother had abused and
neglected Child and seeking protective supervision of Child.
In the Petition, DCFS alleged that Child resided in Duchesne
County, Utah and that (prior to their respective
incarcerations) both Mother and Child's father (Father)
resided in Neola, Utah, a community in Duchesne
County. The Petition also stated that
"neither parent is a member of a federally recognized
Indian tribe, " and that Child was therefore "not
an 'Indian Child'" as defined by the Indian
Child Welfare Act (ICWA). See 25 U.S.C. §§
1901 to 1963 (2012).
The Petition further alleged that, in May 2014, Mother,
Father, and Child had been living in Neola at Father's
parents' residence when police responded to a "call
for assistance" and found "drug paraphernalia,
including drug pipes, old tin foil with drug residue,
including white powder, [and] a prescription pill bottle 
containing whole pills and crushed up powder pills." The
Petition sought, among other things, an order from the court
determining that the court had "original exclusive
jurisdiction of the child and subject matter of [the]
petition pursuant to Utah Code § 78A-6-103."
In her response to the Petition, Mother denied that she or
Child resided in Neola, and asserted instead that she and
Child resided with her parents in Roosevelt, Utah. She
further asserted that she was at her parents' residence
in Roosevelt when police found the drug paraphernalia at
Father's parents' residence in Neola. Mother also
generally denied the allegations of the Petition.
Early in the case, in June 2014, the parties agreed to
mediate the dispute, an effort that was at least partially
successful. After mediation, the parties were able to
"agree on the facts" of the Petition, as amended,
and agreed to "adjudicate" the Petition. Just a few
days after the mediation was completed, DCFS filed an Amended
Petition, and therein stated that the juvenile court had
"original exclusive jurisdiction of the child" and
that, at the time of the Petition, Child resided in Duchesne
County. The Amended Petition also restated the allegations
from the original Petition that "neither parent is a
member of a federally recognized Indian tribe, " and
that Child was therefore "not an 'Indian
Child'" as defined by ICWA. At a subsequent hearing,
the juvenile court found that Mother requested that the facts
recited in the Amended Petition "be deemed true"
under rule 34(e) of the Utah Rules of Juvenile Procedure,
which allows a respondent to admit or deny allegations of
abuse and neglect at a pretrial hearing, and that
Mother's request was voluntary.
On August 12, 2014, the court reduced the parties'
agreement to a court order. Specifically, the court entered
findings of fact and conclusions of law, finding that Child
resided in Duchesne County and concluding that (1) although
Mother is a member of the Timpanogos Tribe, that particular
tribe is not a federally recognized tribe and therefore Child
is "not an Indian Child" under ICWA, and that
"the provisions of ICWA do not apply in this
case"; and (2) the court had jurisdiction. Mother
did not take issue with these findings or conclusions. The
court also ordered, pursuant to the mediated agreement of the
parties, that Child reside with Mother's parents, who at
the time apparently still resided in Roosevelt.
At some point in the latter part of 2014, Mother's
parents moved to Whiterocks, Utah, a community that is inside
the exterior boundaries of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation
of the Ute Indian Tribe. Over a year later, however, in March
2016, the court ruled that Mother's parents were in
violation of prior court orders, and ordered a change of
custody as a consequence. At that point, the juvenile court
ordered that Father's parents would be given sole
temporary custody of Child, and that they could relocate with
Child to Oklahoma. After the juvenile court transferred
custody of Child to Father's parents, DCFS moved to
terminate Mother's parental rights to Child.
Shortly after the court placed Child with Father's
parents, other parties appeared in the case. In May 2016,
Child's maternal aunt and uncle (Aunt and Uncle), who are
members of the Ute Indian Tribe, filed a Petition for Custody
of Child with the tribal court. Aunt and Uncle also filed a
Notice of Lack of Jurisdiction with the juvenile court,
asserting that the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction
to make custody orders with regard to Child, and seeking an
order transferring the case ...