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Name: Adoption of Clarissa H.
Case #: D040365
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/08/2003
Subsequent History: None

Mother moved to have biological father’s rights terminated under Family Code section 7894 to two minor children, in order for their stepfather to adopt them. The father had not supported the children, and had visited only sporadically. The children already referred to their stepfather as “daddy.” Father was served with notice of a hearing, but did not appear. Mother testified that he had provided no child support at all for a year, and did not visit the children at all until he was served with the petition. The court granted the petition on the basis of father’s abandonment of the children. Father wrote to the court a few days later asking for a new hearing, and the court advised him to file a notice of appeal. Father appealed, requesting that the judgment be set aside because his nonappearance at the hearing was inadvertent. The appellate court here concluded that the statute precludes the court from considering default issues and contemplates an appeal only on the merits. Since father did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, and there was ample evidence to support the judgment, the trial court did not err. The ICWA clearly did not apply, and therefore the court’s error was harmless.