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Name: In re Baby Boy M.
Case #: B184199
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 08/19/2006

The court lacks jurisdiction to make custody determination for a child missing since birth and allegedly in another state. Mother’s older children had been removed from her to severe physical abuse which had resulted in the death of one of the children. Later, mother gave birth to Baby Boy M. and left the hospital with him. She gave the baby to his biological father, and the baby’s whereabouts were unknown, though mother stated that the father planned to take the baby to Atlanta to raise him. The Department filed a section 300 petition on the baby’s behalf, alleging that he was at risk based on the severe injuries suffered by his siblings. The juvenile court sustained the petition, and ordered the minors removed from mother. On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction as to Baby Boy M., and that even if it had jurisdiction, the court should have deferred the hearings until the baby was found. The appellate court agreed and reversed the orders. The disentitlement doctrine did not apply to prevent mother from raising the issues on appeal. Mother’s “obstructive conduct” in giving the minor to his father before the Department could detain him occurred prior to the filing of the petition. There was insufficient evidence that California was Baby Boy M.’s home state at the time of the proceedings. A California court cannot assume jurisdiction by default. Further, the juvenile court should not have proceeded to jurisdiction and disposition before locating Baby Boy M. The court properly issued a protective custody warrant; it had no reason to do anything more. There was no benefit to the minor by issuing orders in his best interest without meaningful information about his current condition or living situation.