Family Law

Recent Dependency Law Cases

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DEPENDENCY (current through 5/19/2024)

By:  John Nieman

The precise holdings in a given case are bolded. Auther’s note is italicized.

H.A. v Sup.Ct.

H.A. v Sup.Ct.
5/3/24, CA 3 C099704
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C099704.PDF

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Father appeals termination of his visits and mother’s reunification services and setting a Welfare and Institutions Code (W&I) §366.26 hearing for failure to adequately inquire into the family’s native American ancestry. Both parents denied Native American ancestry through the filing of their ICWA-020 forms. No other investigation was conducted despite contact with and identification of various relatives. The appellate court found unsupported the Agency’s conclusion that parents were fully aware of their family histories. Remanded for compliance with the ICWA.

In re Kiernan S.

In re Kiernan S.
5/6/24, CA 2/7 B318672
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B318672.PDF

Jurisdiction was sustained on allegations of a failure to protect from exposure to substance abuse. The case was appealed, affirmed, and appealed to the state supreme court. It was then remanded to the appellate court to analyze the case in light of In re N.R. (2023) 15 Cal.5th 520. N.R. basically held that risk for exposure to substance abuse cannot be merely based on the high vulnerability of younger children -the idea being that the younger the child the greater the likelihood they would suffer some physical harm from the neglectful acts of intoxicated parents.

The mother absconded with the child shortly before the initial petition was filed in 2019. They weren’t located until late 2021, at which time an amended petition was filed that included the risk mother would abscond again with the child. This appeals court bundled the mother’s continuing use, denial of same, and risk of harm from a mobile child to illegal substances (Kiernan was 2 ½ years old when the amended petition was filed) together to hold that these justified the trial court having taken jurisdiction.

In re D.M.

In re D.M.
5/7/24, CA 4/2 E082401
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E082401.PDF

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Mother lost custody to the juvenile court because of exposure to substance abuse and domestic violence. Upon failing reunification services, a W&I 366.26 was held where her parental rights were terminated. Mother appealed.

There is no assertion in the factual summary that an inquiry into extended family members about possible Native American ancestry was conducted. It appears that mother’s assertion that no such inquiry was made was accepted at face value.

The entire case rests upon the idea that since the child in this case was removed with a warrant, no such inquiry was required. This case follows In re Robert F. (2023) 90 Cal.App.5th 492. Aside from the exhaustive legal analysis aligned with that case’s conclusion, there is a very thorough dissent. Affirmed.


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