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Name: In re Gladys L.
Case #: B186442
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 07/25/2006

The juvenile court may not terminate a presumed father’s parental rights where it failed to find unfitness by clear and convincing evidence. Appellant was the presumed father of the minor, Gladys, who was removed from her mother’s custody. He appeared at the detention hearing as the nonoffending parent, but then disappeared. He did not request custody or visit the minor. He reappeared three years later at the 366.26 hearing, where the court terminated his parental rights. There was never a petition filed alleging that appellant violated any provision of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and he was never adjudicated an unfit parent. The appellate court reversed the order terminating appellant’s parental rights and remanded for the juvenile court to determine whether a petition under section 300 could be properly plead and proven. Due process prohibits the termination of appellant’s parental rights absent any opportunity to respond to charges against him. Appellant did not forfeit his right to contest the termination of his parental rights by failing to act sooner.