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Name: In re A.K. (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 252
Case #: C097776
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/18/2024
Subsequent History: Ordered published 1/30/2024

Juvenile court prejudicially erred in failing to promptly inquire about parentage and in denying biological father’s 388 petitions where biological father was not properly noticed of the proceedings. Minor was removed due to Mother’s substance abuse during her pregnancy. Mother appeared at the detention hearing with an alleged father who requested DNA testing and was later determined not to be Minor’s biological father. Mother then shared that the biological father might be C.B., who took a paternity test and was determined to be Minor’s biological father. Mother was bypassed at the dispositional hearing and a section 366.26 hearing was set. C.B. filed two section 388 petitions requesting reunification services and visitation, both of which were summarily denied. Parental rights were terminated and C.B. appealed. The reviewing court reversed. Here, the juvenile court erred by failing to determine parentage promptly, particularly when the alleged father had expressed doubt about his paternity. This error resulted in a delay of over a month in identifying C.B. as an alleged father. Further, once identified, C.B. did not receive proper notice because (1) the JV-505 form sent to him did not adequately inform him that the proceedings could result in the termination of his parental rights and (2) he was not given notice of multiple important hearings, such as the jurisdiction and disposition hearings. Here, had C.B. been located sooner and properly advised of his rights as an alleged father, he would have stepped forward and sought services as, at least, a biological father. Thus, any error is not harmless and the order terminating parental rights must be reversed.