Saturday, March 11, 2017

Judge Talk

In re Guardianship of N.P.2017 VT 14

By Elizabeth Kruska

This is a reverse and remand to the Probate Division.

Here’s the scoop. The Probate Division has exclusive jurisdiction of guardianships. But, if there is also a pending child in need of supervision (CHINS) case happening in the Family Division, the Family Division gets jurisdiction of the situation. The reason is so that kids involved in the juvenile justice system aren’t stuck in a spot between two different courts, and also so that one court doesn’t make orders that are inconsistent with another court about the same matter.

Here, N.P. was taken into DCF custody in the fall of 2014 on a CHINS petition. Somewhere along the way, some people (relatives? Friends? Don’t know, and it doesn’t totally matter here) who were involved in N.P.’s life filed a petition for a guardianship of N.P. in the Probate Division.

The Probate Division looked at the statute and said, “hold the phone, there’s already a CHINS case going on,” and dismissed the case.

The proposed guardians appealed to SCOV, who reversed, saying that this wasn’t totally correct. While legislature meant for there to be exclusive jurisdiction in the Family Division in situations like this, dismissal wasn’t exactly the right move.

SCOV notes that the guardianship can be transferred to the Family Division after the Family and Probate judges confer about the matter. Since it looks like the case was dismissed without this conference, SCOV remands for the courts to do that.

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