State of Utah, in the interest of J.B., a person under eighteen years of age.
State of Utah, Appellee. J.M.B., Appellant,
Direct Appeal Second District Juvenile Court, Farmington The
Honorable J. Mark Andrus No. 1091623
L. Wiggins, Salt Lake City, for appellant
D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Carol L. C. Verdoia, John M.
Peterson, Asst. Att'ys Gen., Salt Lake City, for appellee
Pierce, Salt Lake City, for Office of Guardian ad Litem
Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the
Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Himonas,
Justice Pearce, and Judge Toomey joined.
her retirement, Justice Durham did not participate herein;
Court of Appeals Judge Kate A. Toomey sat.
Justice Petersen became a member of the Court on November 17,
2017, after oral argument in this matter and accordingly did
Associate Chief Justice
J.B. is the biological child of J.J. When J.J. gave birth to
J.B. in 2010, she was involved in a relationship with J.M.B.
Later, when J.J. and J.M.B. split up, J.M.B. became J.B/s
legal guardian. J.M.B. was also given custody of the child.
J.M.B/s guardianship and custody were subsequently terminated
after a third party called the police to report child
At that time J.B. was placed into the custody of the Division
of Child and Family Services (Division). And the State
petitioned the juvenile court to award custody and
guardianship of J.B. to the Division. During the custody and
guardianship trial, J.M.B., who was representing herself,
chose to remove herself from the trial proceedings. The trial
continued in her absence. The juvenile court then determined
that J.M.B/s guardianship rights should be terminated. It
also found that reunification services between J.M.B. and
J.B. would not be appropriate. J.M.B. filed this appeal.
During oral arguments on appeal, the Guardian ad Litem
renewed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The
Guardian ad Litem asserted that this appeal is moot because
J.B/s adoption had been finalized for more than one year and
a governing statute bars any person from contesting the
adoption after one year from the date of a finalized
adoption. See Utah Code § 78B-6-133(7)(b).
We deny the motion to dismiss and reach the merits of J.M.B/s
appeal. We conclude that the case is not moot because J.M.B/s
action and appeal satisfy the time constraints set forth in
Utah Code section 78B-6-133(7)(d). And we affirm the juvenile
court's order terminating J.M.B/s guardianship and
custody. In so doing we reject the principal arguments raised
by J.M.B. on this appeal.
First we conclude that the juvenile court had jurisdiction to
vacate the district court's orders yielding guardianship
rights to J.M.B. We explain that juvenile courts have
statutory authority to modify a district court's order if
the child also falls within the juvenile court's
jurisdiction. See UTAH CODE § 78A-6-104(4)(a).
Second we hold that J.M.B. waived her statutory right to
counsel. This determination is based on evidence in the
record reflecting that J.M.B. reasonably understood the
proceedings and was aware of her right to counsel but
nonetheless took actions in a clear effort to proceed pro se.
Third we decline to reach a final series of arguments raised
by J.M.B. because she failed to preserve these matters in the
juvenile court proceedings below.
J.B. was born to J.J. in 2010 while she was in a relationship
with J.M.B. When that relationship ended J.M.B. petitioned
the district court for custody of J.B. The district court
awarded joint physical and legal custody to both J.J. and
J.M.B. In so doing the court suggested, among other things,
that J.M.B. was "entitled to parenting rights in
[J.B.]." J.M.B. was also ordered to pay child
The custody arrangement was changed a few months later when
J.M.B. sought to take J.B. with her on a move to Colorado. At
that point the district court awarded J.M.B. sole physical
custody but retained the joint legal custody arrangement. And
under this arrangement J.J. was ordered to pay child support
In October 2015, J.M.B. and J.B. traveled from Colorado to
Utah. They stopped at a McDonald's in Davis County. While
in the McDonald's playroom, J.B. approached a third
party, A.H., asking for food. A.H. noticed that the child was
wearing a visibly soiled diaper and dirty ...