The juvenile court has the authority under section 385 and Family Code section 7642 to reconsider its prior parentage findings. A dependency action was filed after mother was arrested for driving under the influence. J.P. and his younger half-brother, A.A. were taken into protective custody. A.A.’s father, Albert, told the social worker that he was not J.P.’s biological father, but wanted to adopt him. J.P.’s biological father was determined to be his presumed father, but did not make his whereabouts known to the Department and did not visit with J.P. A.A. and J.P. were placed with Albert’s parents as a foster placement before family maintenance was ordered at the six month review hearing in March 2018. In October 2018, Albert requested to be found a presumed parent to J.P. The court said it was a “close case” but denied the request. The court found that there was a bond between Albert and J.P. and ordered weekly visitation. In June 2019, Albert renewed his request to be a presumed father of J.P. This time Albert presented evidence that in the months before the dependency proceeding, mother had allowed him to have visits with J.P. and assume a parental role. In June 2018, mother ceased allowing visits and shortly after that, Albert made his first request to the court for presumed parent status. Evidence was presented that J.P. became distant and standoffish after mother ceased allowing visitation and that his demeanor improved when visitation was reinstated. The court found it would be detrimental to J.P. to recognize only two parents and found that Albert was also his presumed father. Mother appealed the juvenile court’s order, arguing that it did not have jurisdiction to reconsider its prior parentage order due to the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel embodied in Family Code 7636. The appellate court affirmed. Section 385 authorizes the juvenile court to change, modify, or set aside its prior orders sua sponte. While dependency cases follow the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), which includes Family Code section 7636 (orders of the court determining the existence or nonexistence of the parent and child relationship are determinative), Family Code section 7642 gives the court continuing jurisdiction to modify or set aside a judgment or order made under the UPA. Because the question of Albert’s presumed parent status was raised in the context of an ongoing dependency proceeding, there was no break in jurisdiction over the parties and thus, the court was authorized by Family Code 7642 and section 385 to modify its previous parentage order.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H047586.PDF