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Name: In re C.W.
Case #: A152993
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 03/29/2019

The juvenile court abused its discretion in awarding custody of the minor to his father where father, a convicted child sex abuser, failed to participate in services or treatment of any kind and lived far away from child welfare officials. Following a dependency proceeding in which the parents failed to reunify, the minor was placed in long-term foster care. The minor wanted contact with his mother and hoped to live with her again, but wanted no contact with his father. Two years after the permanent plan had been selected, C.W. traveled to Louisiana to visit his father, and did not return. The Agency informed mother that the visit was a trial placement, and that the minor would not be returning. There had been no notice or hearing on the change in plan. At multiple hearings, the court declined to return the minor to California, but made no findings that it was safe to allow him to live with his father, or that father had taken steps to address his issues, including proclivity for sexual abuse of minors. The minor’s condition deteriorated over seven months. The juvenile court rejected mother’s 388 petitions, and dismissed dependency jurisdiction, allowing the minor to remain with his father. A month after the termination of jurisdiction, the state of Louisiana removed C.W. from his father, ordered the minor placed with his mother, and terminated jurisdiction. Mother appealed the placement with father. The Agency moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that it had become moot with the termination of jurisdiction and placement of the minor with mother. The appellate court found that the case was not entirely moot because under the UCCJEA California has continuing jurisdiction over C.W. despite the Louisiana court’s intervention while the appeal was pending. Awarding sole custody of C.W. to his father was an abuse of discretion. The court had previously determined that C.W. was at risk in his father’s care, and there was no evidence that father had even received services or treatment to rectify the dangers he posed as a parent. His relationship with C.W. had soured, mother had vastly improved her parenting abilities, and C.W.’s behavior had deteriorated while in his father’s custody. Reversal and remand was required.