Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Court of Appeal
In re Matthew C.
In consolidated dependency actions, Mother contested the juvenile court's detention and dispositional orders temporarily denying her visitation to her infant son. In the published portion of the opinion, the court joined the Third District in concluding that parental visitation may be denied during the reunification period if such visitation would be inconsistent with the physical or emotional well-being of the child. In this case, Mother was hospitalized after having been badly beaten by Father; it was unclear whether it was Mother or Father who had intentionally burned and bitten the child, thereafter abandoning him at a Starbucks in "very poor" condition; if Mother was responsible for these odious and life-threatening actions, she showed an utter disregard for the well-being of her six-week-old son and clearly represented a physical and emotional threat to him; and, even if Father was responsible, mother's conduct still showed a gross lack of concern for the child's safety and well-being. Therefore, the court affirmed the juvenile court's challenged visitation orders. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the court denied Mother's writ petition challenging the juvenile court's decision to terminate her reunification services. View "In re Matthew C." on Justia Law
Jason P. v. Danielle S.
Jason P., a sperm donor, sought to establish that he is a legal parent of a child conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using his sperm, and that he is entitled to joint legal and physical custody of the child with the child’s mother, Danielle S. Jason and Danielle were involved in a romantic relationship. In this second appeal, Danielle challenged the family law court's finding that Jason is a presumed parent and the family law court's custody order. The court concluded that the family law court correctly applied the law governing presumed parentage, and its finding that Jason is a presumed parent was supported by substantial evidence; however, the family law court's award of joint custody was premature because it had not yet received evidence that Jason completed the requirements that court deemed necessary to rebut the Family Code section 3044 presumption; and thus the court affirmed the parentage finding, but conditionally reversed as to the award of custody. The court directed the family court on remand to determine and make findings as to whether Jason satisfied the conditions the family court deemed necessary to rebut the section 3044 presumption. View "Jason P. v. Danielle S." on Justia Law
Y.R. v. A.F.
Mother of Z. appealed the trial court's order awarding child support from Father, a successful director and producer, in an amount that deviated downward from the statewide uniform guideline by a substantial amount. The court concluded that the trial court's failure to comply with the requirements of Family Code section 4056, subdivision (a), mandated reversal, despite the existence of evidence sufficient to warrant a deviation from the guideline; the trial court's reliance on Mother's and Z.'s expenses and lifestyle, rather than on those of Father and his children, precluded the court from implying findings adequate to support the deviation ordered by the court; and thus the court reversed and remanded for reconsideration of child support criteria under the correct criteria. View "Y.R. v. A.F." on Justia Law
In re Hannah D.
Father appealed the dependency court's termination of Mother and Father's parental rights over their children. The court concluded that Father's failure to challenge the January 27, 2016, order (terminating reunification services) via petition for extraordinary writ precluded review of the order in this appeal; the dependency court did not err in denying the paternal grandmother's request to order yet another assessment for placement; and thus the court affirmed the order. View "In re Hannah D." on Justia Law
In re Alayah J.
Mother challenged the juvenile court's order terminating parental rights over her three children. The court agreed with mother that the juvenile court erred by initially granting her a hearing on her Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition seeking unmonitored visits and an assessment of her home for overnight visits and placement of the children, and then subsequently denying her such a hearing, and by terminating her parental rights before considering her section 388 petition. The court concluded, however, that no miscarriage of justice occurred as a result of that error. In this case, mother had tested positive for marijuana, there was no evidence that mother participated in any drug rehabilitation program or in individual counseling, and she never progressed to unmonitored visits with the children. The court did not find it reasonably probable that mother's parental rights would not have been terminated had the juvenile court not denied her a hearing on her section 388 petition. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re Alayah J." on Justia Law
In re T.W.
The Mendocino County Department of Social Services filed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 3001 petition concerning three minors, alleging their mother was unable to care for them, and that Father’s whereabouts were unknown. Mother and Minors were enrolled members of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians. The case was governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. 1901). The Department located Father in a Florida jail. He requested services. Father was released and submitted evidence that, while incarcerated, Father had completed substance abuse classes and a dog training program. The court sustained an allegation that Father “has a pattern of criminal behaviors that includes a drug-related arrest and conviction in 2014 that severely impairs his ability to care for” his children. He had not seen Minors in more than five years nor spoken to them in two years. At a six-month hearing, Father argued reasonable services were not provided, citing a delay in creating Father’s case plan and failure to provide drug testing or regular phone visitation. The court found reasonable services had been provided; that Father had not complied; and the Department made active efforts to prevent the Indian family's breakup. The court ordered continued services with weekly telephone visits. The court of appeals reversed, finding that, although the likelihood of reunification may be low, the Department was obliged to provide services, regardless of Father’s out-of-state location View "In re T.W." on Justia Law
In re Marcus C., Jr.
The Department and the child challenged the dismissal of a juvenile dependency petition after an adjudication hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300. The petition was the result of allegations of neglect, including the child falling out of a second story window of the apartment in which the child was then living with the father. The court concluded that the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying the motions to amend the petition where it failed to acknowledge that the record was replete with facts well-known to the parents, and that recognizing this circumstance by granting leave to amend to conform to proof, would not have misled the parents to their prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "In re Marcus C., Jr." on Justia Law
In re Breanna S.
Mother and presumed father challenged the juvenile court's order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 terminating their parental rights to Breanna and David, and identifying adoption as the permanent plan for the children. The court concluded that the Department failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq. In this case, the Department conceded that it omitted required information from the ICWA notice, and the omission of information mandated by federal law requires that ICWA notices be resent. Therefore, the court remanded to allow the Department and the juvenile court to remedy the violation of federal and state law. The court otherwise conditionally affirmed the order. View "In re Breanna S." on Justia Law
In re Grace P.
After the juvenile court terminated Father and Mother's parental rights to their children, Grace and Michael, Father argued that the juvenile court erred in finding the beneficial parent-child relationship exception to termination did not apply and in denying him a contested hearing on that issue. Mother adopts Father's arguments on appeal. The court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying Father a contested selection and implementation hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code 366.26. The court explained that when, as here, a parent has consistently and regularly visited his or her children and at the selection and implementation hearing, offers testimony regarding the quality of their parent-child relationship and possible resulting detriment that would be caused by its termination, a juvenile court abuses its discretion if it denies a contested hearing on the beneficial parent-child relationship exception. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for a contested hearing and for a determination of whether a beneficial parent-child relationship exists and prevents the termination of parental rights. View "In re Grace P." on Justia Law
In re: Marriage of Schleich
In 2009 Husband filed a divorce petition. The couple had a house on a ranch in Lemon Cove, purchased by Husband before the marriage. Wife maintained the ranch. Husband, who worked in the Silicon Valley, flew to the ranch on weekends. They had another ranch with a cottage in Exeter, 15 horses, nine vehicles, six motorcycles, two Airstream travel trailers, an airplane, a boat, three horse trailers, and three tractors. In 2010 the court ordered Husband to pay Wife $7,600 in monthly support retroactive to March 2009, and $6,800 in monthly support for 2010, plus $30,000 in need-based attorney’s fees, commenting that Husband had “shown an unwillingness or inability to completely self-report income.” The court of appeal affirmed. In 2013 the court ordered Husband to pay Wife $826,789 ($25,496 in support arrears, $245,273 to divide the community estate, and $556,020 to remedy Husband’s fiduciary breaches) and later awarded Wife $318,510 in attorney’s fees and $5,737.50 in costs, offset by $15,000 for attorney’s fees incurred by Husband associated with Wife’s breaches of fiduciary duty. Wife was awarded $412,485 in need-based attorney’s fees, offset by $105,000 for fees already paid. The court of appeal reversed in part; the trial court erred by making duplicative awards of community assets and by finding breaches of fiduciary duty for dissolution disclosure violations involving Husband’s separate property and community income earned and spent before separation. View "In re: Marriage of Schleich" on Justia Law