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Name: In re J.M.
Case #: B313754
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 03/02/2023
Subsequent History: Ordered published 3/10/2023

Continued jurisdiction was not necessary when the minors were doing well in Mother’s care and a finding of detriment pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361 was not required because it was in the minors’ best interests to award Mother full physical custody. The minors were removed from their parents due to “ongoing parental conflict,” in which Father was the primary aggressor. One of the minors, J., was exhibiting serious mental health concerns as a result of the family dynamic in the home. The minors were placed with maternal grandparents and the parents were ordered to participate in reunification services. During the reunification period, Mother filed for divorce but continued to live with Father, though they had separate overnight visits with the minors. At the six-month review hearing, the minors were returned to the parents with family maintenance services in place. The parents agreed that the minors would stay in the family home and the parents would rotate in and out of the home for their custodial time. However, during this review period Mother moved out of the family home and the minors lived with Mother full time, visiting Father on the weekends. The Agency noted that the minors were doing much better and recommended that jurisdiction be terminated at the section 364 hearing with full physical custody to Mother and unmonitored visitation to Father. Father objected, arguing for continued jurisdiction over the family or split physical custody. The juvenile court terminated jurisdiction, awarding joint legal custody to the parents and full physical custody to Mother with unmonitored visitation to Father. Father appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed the orders. If the Agency recommends termination of jurisdiction at the section 364 hearing, it is the default result unless a parent or child establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that conditions justifying retention of jurisdiction exist or are likely to exist if supervision is withdrawn. Father did not meet this burden. Mother had separated from Father and the minors were happy and healthy in her care. J’s mental health concerns were still present, but had improved. Thus, there was ample evidence to support the conclusion that the conditions no longer existed which required the court’s supervision. Father argued that because the exit orders removed the minors from his custody the trial court was required to make a finding of detriment by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to section 361. However, section 362.4, which governs exit orders, does not require a finding of detriment and thus section 361 does not apply at the section 364 hearing. Rather, the juvenile court must look to the best interests of the child when making exit orders. The juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when awarding Mother sole physical custody because it was in the minors’ best interest.