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Name: In re Austin J.
Case #: B299564
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/15/2020
Summary

California had subject matter jurisdiction over dependency case where mother had been living in California for six months prior to the filing of the petition, and the juvenile court did not modify previous orders made in North Carolina. Mother was involved in a prior dependency action regarding the children in North Carolina. The minors were initially removed, and then returned to her. A year later, the Department opened a new investigation regarding mother. A North Carolina social worker who attempted to visit the family reported that she lost contact because the family moved to California. In May 2019, DCFS filed a petition alleging neglect which was sustained, and the minors were removed. On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case under the UCCJEA because North Carolina had continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the children. The appellate court rejected the argument. Mother had been living in California since at least October 2018, and did not dispute that she and the children had lived in California for at least six months before the petition was filed. California was therefore the home state for the UCCJEA and California courts have jurisdiction to make a custody determination. Since DCFS did not request and the court did not make any modification of an order made by the North Carolina court, Family Code Section 3423 did not apply.

ICWA inquiry and notice were sufficient where mother’s vague statements about her ancestry did not give rise to ICWA notice requirements. Mother also contended that DCFS did not comply with their duties of inquiry and notice under ICWA. Although this issue had become moot prior to the issuance of the opinion (the minors were returned to mother), the court addressed the merits of the issue. Mother’s statements that she “may have had Indian ancestry,” and that she had been told that her mother had Cherokee ancestry were insufficient to support a reason to believe the children were Indian children as defined in ICWA.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B299564.PDF