Family Law

Recent Dependency Law Cases

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DEPENDENCY (current through 2/20/2024)

By:  John Nieman

The precise holdings in a given case are bolded.

In re A.K.

In re A.K.
1/30/24, CA 3 C097776
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C097776.PDF

Father appealed termination of his parental rights. Mother joined. He alleged that his due process rights to establish presumed parentage were abrogated. The appellate court agreed. Though known to the Social Services Department, he didn’t receive notice of some of the hearings nor requisite reports leading up to termination of his parental rights. He was inadequately informed of the importance of the proceedings and risk to his parental rights. Having been found to be the biological father by a paternity test, he was permitted only one visit. His two Welfare & Institutions Code (W&I) §388 petitions begging for visitation and subsequently reunification services were denied without hearings. The appellate court denied the Agency’s forfeiture argument (that father failed to properly appeal jurisdiction and disposition orders) since father’s due process rights were violated in so many ways (notice being one of them). For similar reasons, the appellate court also rejected a disentitlement argument (father supposedly avoided contact with the Social Worker, for which inadequate evidence was contained in the record) and that father could not have been elevated to presumed parentage status (to qualify for reunification services and/or placement). Reversed and remanded, additionally granting father the right to challenge jurisdictional and dispositional orders related to the due process violations.

In re R.M.

In re R.M.
1/30/24, CA 2/3 B327716
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B327716.PDF

Parents appealed Jurisdiction and Dispositional orders. A W&I §300 b(1) petition was filed (failure to protect from risk of physical harm), as well as a W&I §300(g) petition (that the parents were unable to care for the minor because they were in custody and facing murder charges). No evidence was presented that either parent would present a risk to the physical health of the child for any reason. Additionally, though incarcerated, there was inadequate requisite evidence the parents were unable to arrange for the care of the child in their absence. Since proper objections were made in the trial court as to the adequacy of the evidence and timely appeals were filed, reversed and remanded.

In re Lilianna. C.

In re Lilianna. C.
2/8/24, CA 2/2 B324755
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B324755.PDF

Mother’s appeal challenges the issuance of a restraining order pursuant to W&I §213.5 that protected all residents in the home including the dependent minor, other children in the home, caretaker aunt and uncle, and maternal grandmother from her.  It challenges it in 2 ways. One is that because the petition in the case was not filed by a probation officer (which is the language used in W&I §311) W&I §213.5 is inapplicable. Secondly, a protected person in the order was the maternal grandmother who though resided in the home with the minor, was not the caretaker as intended by W&I §213.5(a). The appellate court denied the former contention. The language referring to “probation officer” in W&I §311 has been widely known to mean “Social Worker” by all courts for many years, and this court wanted to (and did) make this understanding explicit. It agreed with the latter contention since maternal grandmother was not a caretaker within the meaning intended by W&I §213.5(a). Partly affirmed, partly reversed.

In re H.D., et al.

In re H.D., et al.
2/14/24, CA 4/1 D082615
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D082615.PDF

This case is very similar to In re Lilianna. C., reviewed above. The appeal challenges the Juvenile Court’s authority to issue a restraining order under W&I §213.5 because W&I §311 refers to a petition filed by a “Probation Officer” not a “Social Worker” (the latter of which is now standard procedure in dependency cases throughout the state). This appellate court dispensed with a forfeiture challenge (since appellant did not so specifically object to the restraining order’s issuance) by exercising its discretion to nevertheless address a potentially recurrent legal issue. As above, this court found that strict adherence to the term “Probation Officer” would effectively ignore the entire scheme of the laws governing juvenile dependency cases wherein historic use of “Probation Officer” has been supplanted with “Social Worker”. Affirmed.


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