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Name: In re Isabella M.
Case #: B277142
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 03/13/2017

Where father did not seek to change his paternity status until just before permanent plan for 20-month-old minor, it was not in the minor’s best interest to grant father’s 388 petition and relitigate the dependency proceedings. The minor was removed due to mother’s substance abuse issues. Appellant R.C. was named as the alleged father. He was incarcerated from the time of the minor’s birth, when she was detained, until the minor was 20 months old. Although he received notice of the proceedings, he did not contact the Department or make an appearance until just before the 366.26 hearing. He had been released from prison, appeared in court, and was appointed counsel. A paternity test was ordered which showed that he was the biological father. He then filed a section 388 petition, requesting that the court hold a new jurisdiction hearing and place the minor in his custody. By this time, the minor had been in her maternal grandmother’s home for nearly two years, and grandmother’s home study had been approved for adoption. Appellant did not appear for either the 388 or 366.26 hearings. The court found that appellant had been provided with notice throughout the course of the proceedings but had failed to contact anyone. The court denied the 388 petition and terminated parental rights, naming grandmother as the prospective adoptive parent. On appeal, appellant claimed a lack of notice of the proceedings. The appellate court agreed that the notice appellant received was incomplete because it did not advise him of his right to seek presumed father status. However, the error was harmless because appellant did receive notice of each hearing, and failed to contact the court or anyone in the Department. His presence at the jurisdiction hearing would not have resulted in a different outcome in the court’s orders regarding jurisdiction and disposition. He would not have been able to meet the elements to be declared a presumed father since he was not married to mother, did not appear on the minor’s birth certificate, and was incarcerated from the time she was born. The minor’s permanent plan was in place, and her best interest was in remaining in the only home she had ever known with the only parent she had ever known as well as with her sibling. The appellate court therefore affirmed the juvenile court’s orders.