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Name: In re B.D.
Case #: D078014
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/27/2021

The juvenile court considered improper factors when addressing whether the parents had met their burden regarding the parental benefit exception to adoption. The minors were removed due to their parents’ domestic violence and substance abuse issues. Reunification services to the parents were terminated due to their failure to make significant progress. At a contested 366.26 hearing, the juvenile court found that the parents had consistently visited the minors but they did not fulfill a parental role, and terminated parental rights. The appellate court reversed the orders. For the beneficial parent-child relationship exception to apply, a parent must show (1) regular visitation; (2) that the child has a substantial, positive, emotional attachment to the parent, and (3) terminating that attachment would be detrimental to the child. The readiness of parents to have a child returned to their custody is not relevant to the application of the parental benefit exception. The record suggests that in finding the parents did not meet their burden of proof, the juvenile court relied heavily, if not exclusively, on the fact that the parents had not completed their reunification plans and were unable to care for the children based on their long term and continued substance abuse. The juvenile court considered improper factors at the second step of the analysis and thus, the case was remanded for the juvenile court to hold a new section 366.26 hearing in conformity with the principles articulated in In re Caden C. (2021) 11 Cal.5th 614. On remand the juvenile court shall consider whether the parents’ continued struggles with the issues that resulted in the dependency proceeding impacted the amount of visitation, the nature of that contact, or otherwise negatively affected the parent-child relationship.