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Name: Guardianship of Avery Vaughan
Case #: C066705
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/18/2012

In a guardianship proceeding under Family Code section 3041, the “stable placement” provision is not dependent on a child being abandoned with the nonparent. Minors appealed the denial of a petition by their grandparents for a probate guardianship over them. Family Code section 3041 prohibits a court from granting custody of a minor to a person not the child’s parent over the parent’s objection without first finding that custody by the parents would be detrimental to the child and that custody to the nonparent is required to serve the child’s best interest. Detriment to the child also includes the harm of removing the child from his “stable placement” from a caretaker who has cared for the child for a substantial period of time. Grandparents here petitioned for guardianship of the children due to their parents’ mental health issues. The juvenile court denied the petition, ruling that the parents did not qualify as the requisite “stable placement” because the minors had not been abandoned to them. On appeal, minors argued that the trial court’s ruling is a misinterpretation of the law and an abuse of discretion. The appellate court agreed and reversed. The stable placement provision of Family Code section 3041 is not dependent on the child first being abandoned with the nonparent. The record reflects that the evidence established the stable placement presumption during the trial court proceedings. Remand was required for a hearing to allow parents to present evidence to rebut the stable placement presumption. If the presumption cannot be overcome by a preponderance of evidence, the court must make the findings necessary to grant the guardianship petition.