Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B
Petition for Special Action from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. JD23725 The Honorable Larry Grant, Judge.
Thomas C. Horne, Attorney General Phoenix by Dawn R. Williams, Assistant Attorney General Tucson Attorneys for Petitioner.
Law Office of Lynn Pucino Phoenix by Lynn Pucino Attorney for Real Party in Interest Devin P.
Law Office of Sara J. Smith, PLLC Goodyear by Sara Smith Attorney for Real Party in Interest Angie P.
Law Office of Iris Garcia Maes Phoenix by Iris G. Maes Guardian ad Litem for Real Parties in Interest K.P. and K.P.
MAURICE PORTLEY, Judge
¶1 The Arizona Department of Economic Security ("ADES") challenges the dismissal of a dependency petition based on lack of jurisdiction pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), codified in Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") sections 25-1001 to 25-1067 (West 2013) . Because we find that the juvenile court has jurisdiction, we accept special action jurisdiction and grant relief.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
¶2 Angie P. ("Mother") and Devin P. ("Father") (collectively "Parents"), Real Parties in Interest, are the parents of two children. The U.S. Air Force transferred Father from Japan to Luke Air Force Base, and he and his family relocated to Arizona. One month later, ADES received a report from military authorities in Japan that the children had allegedly been abused and neglected by their parents. After receiving the report, ADES contacted local law enforcement and local military authorities, and implemented a safety plan. Parents, however, did not comply, and ADES subsequently removed the children from Parents' care, placed them in temporary foster care, and filed a dependency petition.
¶3 Following the preliminary protective hearing, Parents requested a temporary custody hearing. At that hearing, the juvenile court received testimony from Parents and a Child Protective Services ("CPS") investigator, and an ADES report and other documents were admitted as exhibits. Following a recess, the court determined it lacked jurisdiction over the case because the petition "refer[red] to events that allegedly occurred in Japan, not in the state of Arizona." The court then dismissed the dependency action, and ADES filed this special action petition. We previously stayed the dismissal of the dependency and return of the children to Parents pending the resolution of this special action.
SPECIAL ACTION JURISDICTION
¶4 We have discretion to accept special action jurisdiction, Potter v. Vanderpool, 225 Ariz. 495, 498, ¶ 6, 240 P.3d 1257, 1260 (App. 2010), and will accept jurisdiction if a petitioner does not have an "equally plain, speedy, and adequate remedy by appeal, " Ariz. R.P. Spec. Actions 1(a), or "if a case presents an issue of first impression and one of statewide importance that is likely to recur." Gray v. Irwin, 195 Ariz. 273, 275, ¶ 5, 987 P.2d 759, 761 (App. 1999); Ariz. Dep't of Econ. Sec. v. Leonardo, 200 Ariz. 74, 75, ¶ 1, 22 P.3d 513, 514 (App. 2001). And, the issue of whether a court has jurisdiction under the UCCJEA despite the children's presence in Arizona for less than six months "is of first impression, has statewide importance, and is likely to recur." Welch-Doden v. Roberts, 202 Ariz. 201, 204, ¶ 10, 42 P.3d 1166, 1169 (App. 2002). Consequently, we exercise our discretion and accept jurisdiction.
¶5 ADES asserts that the juvenile court erred by finding that it did not have jurisdiction over its dependency petition. We review the "decision to dismiss a case for lack of jurisdiction" de novo. Guminski v. Ariz. State Veterinary Med. Examining Bd., 201 Ariz. 180, 182, ¶ 9, 33 P.3d 514, 516 (App. 2001). We also review "this matter de novo because it involves a matter of statutory interpretation." Melgar, 215 Ariz. at 606, ¶ 6, 161 P.3d at 1270 (citing Willie G. ...