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[U] In re S.P.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 13, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF: S.P., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.A., MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER IN THE INTEREST OF: A.P., A MINOR APPEAL OF: D.A.

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered April 12, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Orphans' Court at No(s): CP-06-DP-0000082-2013

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., WECHT, and FITZGERALD [*], JJ.

MEMORANDUM

FITZGERALD, J.

Appellant, D.A. ("Maternal Grandmother"), appeals from the order entered in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas finding that she does not have standing to intervene in the dependency actions concerning her grandchildren, S.P. and A.P. (collectively "Children").[1] Maternal Grandmother contends the court erred in (1) finding she did not have standing to intervene in the dependency action because she stood in loco parentis to Children, (2) finding she was required to comply with recommendations made by the Berks County Children and Youth Services ("BCCYS"), (3) failing to hold a full dependency hearing, and (4) finding a stipulated custody order granting her legal and physical custody was voidable. We affirm. The trial court summarized the facts and procedural history of this case:

On April 2, 2013, [BCCYS] filed petitions requesting that [S.P. and A.P.] be declared dependent. BCCYS averred that [C]hildren were in the care of their mother, J.N. [Mother], and that it would be contrary to the welfare, safety and health of [C]hildren to remain in Mother's care. In their petitions, BCCYS alleged that Mother's conduct, including her conflict with Maternal Grandmother, domestic violence issues with G.P.[, Children's father] (hereinafter "Father"), inability to assume primary responsibility for [C]hildren's care, and her mental health issues, placed [C]hildren at risk. BCCYS further alleged that it had implemented numerous safety plans with Mother in an attempt to avoid dependency; however, violations of the safety plans as well as new concerns led BCCYS to be unable to assure [C]hildren's continued safety. Two days later, on April 4, 2013, the Court granted BCCYS emergency protective custody of [C]hildren.
[Maternal Grandmother], through counsel, filed a PETITION TO INTERVENE IN DEPENDENCY on April 10, 2013. In her petition, Maternal Grandmother requested that she be granted permission to participate in the dependency proceedings in a "limited fashion" in order to show that Mother and Father stipulated to her having legal custody of [C]hildren. Maternal Grandmother provided that she filed an action in custody on March 28, 2013, before she had any knowledge of the filing of the dependency petitions. On April 8, 2013, a stipulated custody order, granting Maternal Grandmother legal and primary physical custody of [C]hildren, was signed by all parties and approved by the Honorable Judge James Bucci.[2] Furthermore, Maternal Grandmother also argued in her petition that she "has stood in loco parentis of [C]hildren" and "has had custody and care of [C]hildren."
A hearing was held on April 10, 2013, to address BCCYS' petitions and Maternal Grandmother's request to intervene in the dependency proceedings. At the conclusion thereof, the Court entered orders declaring [C]hildren dependent and transferring legal custody to BCCYS for placement purposes. The Court also entered an order declaring that Maternal Grandmother does not have standing to participate in the dependency proceedings. Lastly, the Court entered an order finding that Judge Bucci's custody order is not enforceable to the extent that it contracts with this Court's dependency order.

Trial Ct. Op., 6/6/13, at 1-2 (footnote and citation omitted).

This timely appeal followed. Maternal Grandmother filed a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i). The trial court filed a responsive opinion.

Maternal Grandmother raises the following issues for our review:

1. Did the Honorable Trial Court err in finding that [M]aternal [G]randmother had no standing to intervene in the dependency action when she was present at the hearing, filed a motion to intervene prior to the hearing, and has standing to participate in the proceeding with a right to be heard pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 6336.1?
2. If in fact [M]aternal [G]randmother had no standing as the Court ruled, and she was not a party to the action, did the Court commit a due process violation in finding that [she] shall cooperate with a mental health evaluation and casework services and any recommendations made by [BCCYS] when these services were not stated on the record?
3. Did the Honorable Trial Court err in failing to hold a full hearing on the allegations of dependency on the record for [Children] prior ...

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