Family Law

Recent Dependency Law Cases

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DEPENDENCY (current through 6/15/2023)
By:  John Nieman

In re Jonathan C.M.

In re Jonathan C.M.
5/23/23, CA 1/2 A165931
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A165931.PDF

Jurisdiction of a nonminor dependent (NMD) from juvenile probation suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with a history in the juvenile dependency court was terminated for noncompliance.

NMD’s are afforded support from AB-12 (2010) and its progeny. It is called transition jurisdiction because the support is basically designed to assist foster youth transition from being dependents to independent adults. There are requirements of the youths in order to ensure, among other things, that the transition is successful. Accountability requirements of youths also prevents wasting taxpayer funds and the juvenile court from enabling dysfunctional or self-destructive behaviors. Juvenile courts are, as here, tasked with weighing youths’ efforts with their various individual challenges in their environment within the statutory framework. In addition, the juvenile court must consider the nonminor’s best interests; that terminating transitional jurisdiction is in the NMD’s best interests (Welfare and Institutions Code (W&I) §202(d), CA Rule of Court 5.555(d)(1)(B)).

The Rule of Court requires the juvenile court to make factual findings specific to the NMD’s best interests determination. In this case no specific factual basis for the best interests determination was made. There was also conflicting information in the probation reports and court record. Remanded, with a recommendation for a stipulated immediate remittitur because of the youth’s looming 21st birthday which could be the end of his eligibility for transitional support.

In re S.F.

In re S.F.
6/8/23, CA 1/1: A166150M
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A166150M.PDF

In its original disposition, the Appellate Court directed the trial court “to dismiss the petition as to father.” In juvenile dependency cases, petitions are filed on behalf of children; to protect them against adverse circumstances, whatever they may be and from whatever source. Those circumstances form the factual basis that potentially justify the court’s jurisdiction. Petitions are legally not about one parent and/or the other, but a child. At best the appellate court’s intention was for the trial court to modify the petition to remove those allegations from the petition (the allegations became findings of fact when the trial court originally took jurisdiction) that found the father to have caused a need for jurisdiction. In any case, the modified opinion corrected this error.

In re Ja.O. et al.

In re Ja.O. et al.
5/17/23, CA 4/2: E079651
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E079651.PDF

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Mother appealed from disposition claiming the social services agency, DPSS’s, failed to inquire about possible Native American heritage as required under W&I §224.2(b). All evidence was that parents denied native American ancestry except on one occasion where the father indicated possible ancestry. The Social Services Agency made some, inquiry but not all that might be required under W&I §224.2(b) This court followed Robert F. (2023) [E080073, reviewed here last month] that, since the child was taken into protective custody by a warrant issued pursuant to W&I §340 and not W&I §306 (which does not require a warrant) as specified in W&I §224.2(b), the inquiry mother claims was not followed was not required. This court also pointed out that ongoing inquiry would continue as required under W&I 224.2(a) and (c).

In re I.E.

In re I.E.
5/17/23, CA 4/2: E080223
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E080223.PDF

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the ground that the trial court failed to find that the beneficial bond exception applied. Mother visited regularly and had a positive and beneficial relationship with the child. However the Appellate Court found ample evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that terminating the parental relationship would not be detrimental to the child. What seemed most salient to the Appellate Court was that the child suffered no distress when visits terminated and repeatedly stated her desire to be adopted. The Appellate Court also pointed out that the trial court appropriately did not compare caretaking abilities of the mother and foster parent.


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