Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Division One
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. JD23088 The
Honorable John R. Ditsworth, Judge
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Tucson By Laura J.
Huff Counsel for Appellee Department of Child Safety
L. Popilek, Scottsdale By John L. Popilek Counsel for
Andrew W. Gould delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Judge Randall M. Howe
Timothy W. ("Father") appeals the juvenile
court's order denying his request to withdraw his waiver
of a termination hearing. Because we find the juvenile court
abused its discretion in denying Father's request, we
reverse and remand.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In February 2013, the juvenile court determined Child was
dependent as to Father. Two years later, DCS moved to
terminate Father's parental rights. Based on DCS's
motion, the juvenile court changed the case plan from
reunification to severance and adoption.
At the October 2015 status conference, Father's attorney
advised the court that Father wished to waive his right to a
termination hearing and not contest the allegations in the
severance petition. In response to the court's questions,
Father confirmed that he had spoken to his attorney about the
decision and did not want to contest the allegations in the
petition. The court found that Father knowingly,
intelligently and voluntarily waived his right to a
termination hearing, and set a hearing for January 2016 to
determine the factual basis for terminating Father's
At the January hearing, the juvenile court asked Father if he
still wished to waive his right to a termination hearing. In
response, Father stated he had changed his mind and wanted to
contest the severance petition. The court, however, denied
Father's request to withdraw his waiver, stating that
Father previously waived his right to a termination hearing.
The court then obtained a factual basis and terminated
Father's rights. Father timely appeals.
Father argues the juvenile court erred in denying his request
to withdraw his waiver. Father contends that pursuant to Rule
66(D)(1) of the Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court,
the court could not accept his waiver until it obtained a
factual basis to support termination. As a result, he asserts
he could withdraw his waiver at the January hearing because
the juvenile court had not completed the waiver process
prescribed by Rule 66.
We review "questions involving the interpretation of
court rules" de novo and "evaluate procedural rules
using principles of statutory construction."
Haroutunian v. Valueoptions, Inc., 218 Ariz. 541,
544, ¶ 6 (App. 2008) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). "[W]e interpret court rules 'in accordance
with the intent of the drafters, and we look to the plain
language of the . . . rule as the best indicator of that
intent.'" Id. (quoting Fragoso v.
Fell, 210 Ariz. 427, 430, ¶ 7 (App. 2005). In
reviewing the procedural requirements for accepting "a
no contest plea in a termination proceeding, we turn for
guidance to the analogous context of guilty or no contest
pleas made by criminal defendants." Tina T. v. Dept
of Child Safety, 236 Ariz. 295, 298-99, ¶
15 (App. 2014).
If a parent wishes to waive his right to a severance hearing,
he must advise the juvenile court that he admits or does not
contest the allegations in the severance petition. Ariz. R.P.
Juv. Ct. 66(D)(1). Rule 66(D)(1) states that "[i]n