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Name: In re Christopher C.
Case #: B216270
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 02/22/2010

A petition was properly sustained where the minors were at risk of emotional harm due to family conflict and cross-accusations. Mother and father were the parents of seven children, who were the subject of 30 referrals to DCFS. Some of the minors accused the father of sexual abuse, some accused siblings of engaging in sexual conduct. One accused his brother of sexually abusing him in the father’s presence. The minors who did not accuse the father claimed that the mother physically abused them and coached them to tell lies about the father. A series of inconsistent statements left the juvenile court at a loss as to whether any of the allegations were true. The court sustained section 300, subdivisions (b) and (c) petitions based on the fact that the ongoing family conflict and cross-allegations of sexual abuse was emotionally damaging to the children. On appeal, the father contended that the petition did not state a cause of action under section 300, subdivision (b) or subdivision (c). The appellate court found the issue waived for failure to object in the trial court. Even if the petition did fail to state a cause of action, the father could not establish prejudice since he did not claim he was misled in any way by the amendments to the petition. The appellate court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s jurisdictional findings. The family’s history showed that the parents turned a blind eye to the substantial risk of emotional damage that their conduct spawned. Not only were the parents pitted against each other, but the children were as well. Where, as here, the children are at substantial risk of emotional harm as a result of being utilized as weapons in an ongoing familial fight, the court properly exercises jurisdiction.