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Name: In re Aiden L.
Case #: B277445
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 10/23/2017

Parental rights termination order was reversed where juvenile court failed to make necessary findings under the UCCJEA as to whether California or Arizona had jurisdiction. Parents had three children together. Mother voluntarily placed the minors with her parents in Arizona because she and father could not provide a stable home. She then took the youngest minor, Aiden, with her. Over the next two years, grandparents made several attempts to persuade mother to leave Aiden with them as well. Grandparents were awarded full custody of the older two minors, and parents’ rights to the older minors were terminated. Parents had gone to California to find work, and were there four months before mother was arrested. Mother requested that Aiden be sent back to Arizona to live with his grandparents and siblings if he could not stay with his father. Aiden was placed with his father, but then father was also arrested. Father also requested that Aiden be sent to Arizona. Grandparents contacted the social worker and explained that Aiden’s siblings were in their custody, and they would like Aiden placed with them. Grandparents were told this was not possible since they lived out of state, and that they should find a California relative to take Aiden. Aiden was placed with his great aunt Nancy. When parents’ services were terminated, grandparents were told that the minor was now bonded with Nancy. Prior to the 366.26 hearing, grandparents filed a 388 petition requesting a change in placement. The juvenile court denied the 388 petition. It also rejected a sibling exception to adoption, and at the 366.26 hearing, it terminated parents’ rights to Aiden, designating Nancy as the prospective adoptive parent. On appeal, mother, the grandparents, and the siblings each argued that the California juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Aiden under the UCCJEA, and that all orders had to be reversed. The appellate court agreed and reversed the order terminating parental rights, remanding the case to the juvenile court to hold a hearing to determine whether it properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Although parents had “lived” in California for four months prior to the filing of the dependency petition, the court should have considered whether the family’s stay in California during this period was a “temporary absence” from Arizona. On remand, a ruling on the temporary absence issue would need to include an evaluation of parents’ reasons for leaving Arizona, and whether they discussed returning to Arizona. The juvenile court should also consider that parents had resided in Arizona for their entire adult lives, and did not establish a home in California.