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Name: In re Alexander P.
Case #: A146040
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/21/2016
Summary

The juvenile court erred when it found that it was bound by paternity decisions made in the family court after the filing of the dependency petition. The three-year-old minor was the subject of a dependency petition filed following domestic violence between mother and stepfather, Donald. At the time of the petition, the minor’s paternity was the subject of two competing motions filed in family court by two other men: the minor’s biological father (Joel), and the man mother was living with at the time of the minor’s birth (Michael). Two weeks after the filing of the dependency petition, the family court ruled that both Michael and Joel qualified as presumed fathers under Family Code section 7612, subdivision (c). In the initial dependency proceedings, all three men sought to be declared presumed fathers; Michael and Joel under the family court order, and Donald because he had served in the role of the minor’s father for the 20 months prior to the dependency proceedings. The juvenile court found all three men to be presumed fathers, and stated that it was bound by the family court orders involving Michael and Joel. The minor and Michael appealed the designation of Donald as presumed father, and several other parties appealed the designation of Michael as presumed father. The appellate court vacated the presumed father status as to Michael. Once a dependency petition is filed, section 316.2 grants exclusive jurisdiction over paternity issues to the juvenile court hearing the petition. Therefore, the family court was divested of jurisdiction on paternity issues once the dependency proceeding was commenced. However, the court concluded that as to Joel, reliance on the family court’s order was harmless error because Joel had previously been declared a presumed father by the family court at a time when that court did have jurisdiction over the issue. Therefore, the finding that Joel was a presumed parent was affirmed, as was the order finding Donald a presumed father. [Editor’s Note: This is an opinion following rehearing.]