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Name: In re Brianna M.
Case #: B245203
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 10/24/2013
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/11/2014: S214955

Juvenile court did not err when it named non-biological father the presumed father of the minor over biological father who signed voluntary paternity declaration but had no relationship with her. Francisco is the biological father of the eight-year-old minor; Ron H. is the father of Brianna’s half-brothers and also raised Brianna since she was an infant. During dependency proceedings, both men sought presumed father status. The juvenile court designated Ron the presumed father because he had a parental relationship with the minor, while Francisco, who had only seen Brianna a few times since her birth, did not. Francisco appealed, contending that as a matter of law he was entitled to presumed father status because he executed a declaration of paternity at Brianna’s birth, thereby rebutting the presumption of paternity under Family Code section 7612, subdivision (c). The appellate court rejected his argument and affirmed. In dependency proceedings, “presumed fatherhood” does not denote a presumption in the evidentiary sense and is not rebutted by evidence someone else is a natural father. In dependency proceedings, biological paternity is irrelevant. A presumed father is one who demonstrates a commitment to the child sufficient to justify the grant of rights not afforded to natural fathers—the rights to reunification services and custody. Signing a voluntary declaration does not satisfy this standard, or extinguish a competing claim of paternity.