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In re Baby Girl Arnold

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

October 24, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: BABY GIRL ARNOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY ARNOLD and ROYCE ARNOLD, Appellants. JUVENILE OFFICER, Respondent,

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE DAVID M. BYRN, JUDGE

          Before Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge.

          VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE.

         Royce Jackson (Mother) and Timothy Arnold (Father) appeal from a judgment of the family court division of the circuit court assuming jurisdiction over Baby Girl Arnold. They contend that the circuit court erred in asserting jurisdiction over the child under section 211.031.1[1]and the UCCJEA because the child was neither a resident of nor found within Jackson County, Missouri, her home state was that of Kansas, and Kansas had jurisdiction over her. The judgment is affirmed.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about October 29, 2016, Mother gave birth to Baby Girl Arnold at a hospital in Johnson County in the state of Kansas. On or about November 1 or 2, 2016, the Johnson County, Kansas district court placed her in protective custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). The child was placed with a relative in Kansas.

         On November 4, 2016, the Jackson County, Missouri juvenile officer filed a petition alleging that the child is without proper care, custody, and support pursuant to section 211.031.1. Specifically, the petition alleged that Mother and Father neglect the child in that they have a pattern of neglect regarding the child's two siblings, who are under the jurisdiction of the circuit court due in part to Mother's and Father's physical abuse of one sibling and their neglect of the siblings, and they have failed to rectify the circumstances that brought the siblings under the jurisdiction of the court. The petition further alleged that just prior to the birth of the child, Mother and Father attempted to evade Children's Division by going to Nebraska in an attempt to deliver the baby then going to Kansas and delivering the baby there.

         On November 9, 2016, the circuit court held a protective custody hearing. Mother and Father did not attend the hearing, but their attorneys did. The circuit court placed the child in protective custody and in the temporary legal custody of the Children's Division. It determined that removal of the child was necessary because Mother and Father were provided services in the siblings' cases and had not safely achieved reunification with the siblings at the time. The court also cited concerns about Mother's mental health, parenting abilities, and physical abuse of the child's sibling and the parents' attempt to conceal Mother's pregnancy of the child from the Children's Division and the court. The circuit court also issued a capias for the child.

         Shortly thereafter on the same day, the Johnson County, Kansas district court released custody of the child for the following reason, "Court involvement in Kansas is no longer necessary. The child has been placed in Missouri State custody where her siblings are already in custody."

         On January 9, 2017, an adjudication and disposition hearing was held on the petition. The circuit court granted leave to file an amended petition. The amended petition again alleged that the child is without proper care, custody, and support pursuant to section 211.031 repeating the allegations made in the original petition. It further alleged that both Mother and Father have pending criminal charges for the class B felony of abuse or neglect of a child in Jackson County related to the abuse of one of the child's siblings.

         After hearing evidence, the circuit court entered judgment on January 13, 2016, sustaining the allegations in the first amended petition, finding the child is in need of care, and assuming jurisdiction of the child. It found that Mother and Father failed to respond to the petition or appear at the adjudication and disposition hearing although notified by certified mail to their address at 4227 Paseo in Kansas City. It also found that the child's siblings are under the jurisdiction of the court due to physical abuse and neglect and that the circumstances leading to jurisdiction have not been rectified. It found that Mother "exhibits bizarre, delusional and aggressive behavior indicative of an untreated mental illness" and "has a history of violent behavior." Father "physically abused this child's sibling and has not addressed his parenting deficits as to discipline, empathy or an understanding of child development." Additionally, the circuit court found that both parents "have absconded with the child and her safety is at serious risk. The mother took the child in violation of a valid court order and both she and the child's whereabouts remain unknown." Furthermore, it found that there is an active warrant for Mother's arrest in her criminal case, and Father is precluded from contact with children under the age of seventeen pursuant to a criminal bond and is complicit in the mother's hiding of the child from the state and the court. Finally, the court found, "Both parents have made no progress in over a year in addressing the barriers to reunification identified in this child's sibling matters, " and "failed to participate in services and have obstructed the Children's Division in the provision of reasonable efforts as to services."

         In the meantime, Mother and Father filed a motion to dismiss arguing that under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the circuit court does not have proper jurisdiction over the child because Kansas is her home state. The circuit court subsequently denied the motion to dismiss.

         Thereafter, Mother and Father filed a notice of appeal to this court. The form was completed in its entirety except for Mother and Father's address, which was left blank.

         On March 13, 2017, the circuit court conducted a case review hearing regarding Baby Girl Arnold. Following receipt of evidence, the circuit court found that Mother is purposely avoiding her arrest warrant and purposely hiding the child from the Children's Division and the court. It further found that Father appeared at the hearing and testified that he now lives in Kansas but refuses to provide his address, has no knowledge of the mother's or child's locations, and has no concern for her safety. The court found Father's testimony not credible.

         Standard ...


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