Case Law Update: 3 Mar 2009

R.C. v. Superior Court (No. F056730) (Unpub'd)

Denial of reunification services not an error when paternity has not been proven and no evidence exists that provision of services would benefit the child's best interests.

Newborn E. was detained in October 2008, after both he and his mother (who had previously had several other children removed from her care) tested positive for Methamphetamine. Petitioner told a social worker he was R.'s father and requested paternity testing, results of which (if obtained) were never submitted to the court, and Father was not listed on E.'s birth certificate. The court filed allegations against Father for drug use, gang activity, criminal record, and failure to protect E. At the dispositional hearing, the court denied both parents reunification services, and Father appealed.

The appellate court held that the juvenile court had not erred in denying Father reuinification services since there is no evidence on the record to support his contention that he warrants presumed father status. The court further held that, even were Father to be deemed a presumed father, the juvenile court acted within its discretion to deny reunification services to Father because he had no contact with E. apart from three or four visits, a prior criminal history involving drugs, and there was evidence of ongoing drug use and gang affiliation. Based on this evidence, the juvenile court properly concluded reunification services would not benefit E. The juvenile court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: F056730.pdf, F056730.DOC

C.B. v. Superior Court (No. E047212) (Unpub'd)

Court's denial of presumed father status and denial of reunification services proper when Father's evidence deemed not credible.

M.H. was detained from her mother (also designated M.H.) in September 2008 when she came to a hospital with burned hands, and the story she gave hospital personnel was inconsistent with those injuries. Mother had prior juvenile and criminal history and drug addiction. She told the social worker that Father had been physically abusive to her, and that he denied responsibility for the child. At the time of the dispositional hearing, Father testified that Mother and the minor had lived with him for a period of some 4-6 months, denied all knowledge of Mother's drug use, and testified that he spoke to the minor by phone every few days. Father's testimony was deemed not credible on cross-examination (based in part on a declaration Father had executed in an earlier paternity and visitation action). After noting that it found Father's demeanor and testimony not credible, the juvenile court found him to be "merely a biological father" and denied reunification services. Father appealed.

The appellate court agreed with the juvenile court's conclusion that Father's "statement on the forms, coupled with the maternal grandmother's statements to the social worker, constituted substantial evidence that his trial testimony was, as the trial court concluded, a recent fabrication" and that the finding that Father did not qualify as a "presumed father" was supported by adequate evidence. The court further agreed that there was no evidence of a beneficial existing relationship between Father and the minor, and therefore concluded the juvenile court had not erred in failing to provide reunification services. The juvenile court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: E047212.pdf, E047212.DOC

In re A.A. et al. (No. B209127) (Unpub'd)

Court did not err in sustaining dispositional orders on the basis of sexual abuse, where mother had substantial reason (including her own past abuse) to know the children were at risk.

Maria A. (appellant), the mother of 12- and 5-year-old daughters (A.A. and A.S.) and an 8-year-old son (E.S.) became the subject of a DCFS investigation after a school counselor reported that A.A. had been sexually abused by her maternal uncle (Juan A.) and her maternal cousin (Oscar V.). The children were detained on a petition that the abuse of A.A. and appellant's failure to protect her endangered her safety. Further investigation revealed that Juan A. had also sexually abused Mother when she was a child, and that the maternal grandmother had been made aware of that abuse and did nothing to prevent it. After the Department detained the children, Mother moved to a friend's home, but acknowledged that her new living situation was only temporary. At a contested juris/dispo hearing, the juvenile court ordered that the children remain in the physical custody of their respective fathers, that mother undergo psychological evaluation and counseling, and that she receive unmonitored visits with the children in the homes in which they were placed and monitored visits elsewhere. The court also gave DCFS discretion to liberalize the visitation. Mother appealed these orders.

The appellate court held that substantial evidence, including Mother's own past history of sexual abuse, were sufficient to alert her to the risks of abuse, and the fact that she failed to confront Juan A. and Oscar V. about the abuse or take any other protective measures was sufficient to justify the court's dispositional findings. The court also found that the orders for psychological evaluation and monitored visitation were reasonable in light of the legitimate concerns about Mother's poor judgment with respect to protecting the children from the risk of sexual abuse and the risk that Mother would again make the children accessible by the abusers. The juvenile court's orders were thus affirmed.

Opinion: B209127.pdf, B209127.DOC

No comments:

Post a Comment