MONIQUE B. and DONALD B., a married couple, Petitioners,
THE HONORABLE SALLY S. DUNCAN, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of MARICOPA, Respondent Judge, THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SAFETY; CATHY L.; S.B., minor child in Maricopa county juvenile action JD 33658, Real Parties in Interest.
Petition for Special Action from the Superior Court in
Maricopa County No. JD33658 The Honorable Sally Schneider
D. Johnson, Peoria Counsel for Petitioners
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Tucson By Dawn R.
Williams Counsel for Real Party in Interest Department of
D. Rosanelli, Phoenix Counsel for Real Party in Interest,
Minor Child S.B.
Maricopa County Office of Legal Defender, Phoenix By Margaret
Williams Counsel for Real Party in Interest, Mother Cathy L.
Judge Samuel A. Thumma delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge Kenton D. Jones joined.
THUMMA, CHIEF JUDGE.
In 2017, the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County
entered dependency, termination of parental rights and
adoption orders for S.B., a young child. In 2018, the Arizona
Superior Court learned that, in 2016, an Alabama state court
had issued a valid child custody order for S.B. that remained
in place. After learning Alabama retained exclusive,
continuing jurisdiction over S.B., the Arizona Superior Court
vacated the dependency, termination and adoption orders for
lack of jurisdiction. Petitioners, S.B.'s paternal
grandparents Monique and Donald B., seek special action
relief from the ruling vacating those orders. For the
following reasons, this court accepts jurisdiction but denies
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
S.B. was born in Alabama in March 2013 to Cathy L. (Mother)
and Jacob B. (Father). In 2014, Mother filed a custody
petition in Alabama state court. Also in 2014, Father and
S.B. moved to Arizona to live with Petitioners. In August
2016, the Alabama court awarded Father sole custody of S.B.
In January 2017, Father died in a traffic accident. That same
month, the Department of Child Safety (DCS) filed a
dependency petition in Arizona Superior Court, alleging
abandonment by Mother. S.B. was placed with Petitioners,
where she has remained ever since.
Attempts to locate Mother were unsuccessful. DCS reported
that "in March 2017, she relocated to . . .
Tennessee" but could not be found. Also in March 2017,
S.B.'s Guardian Ad Litem filed a petition to terminate
Mother's parental rights alleging abandonment. After
service by publication, S.B. was found dependent as to Mother
in April 2017 and Mother's parental rights to S.B. were
terminated in June 2017. Petitioners then filed a petition to
adopt S.B. In November 2017, the Arizona Superior Court
granted the adoption petition and dismissed the dependency.
Meanwhile, in November 2017, Mother filed a petition with the
Alabama court seeking to modify that court's August 2016
custody order, noting she "recently learned that the
Father is deceased." In December 2017, the Alabama court
awarded Mother sole custody of S.B. At about this same time,
Mother also contacted the Arizona Superior Court.
In January 2018, the Arizona Superior Court made a factual
finding that Mother "is a resident of Tennessee,"
but was not asked to address and did not address the Alabama
court's exclusive, continuing jurisdiction based on the
August 2016 custody order. Later in January 2018, Mother
asked the Arizona Superior Court to set aside the order
granting the adoption and the order terminating her parental
rights, asserting that ...