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Name: In re J.S.
Case #: E067122
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 04/05/2017

Reversal was required where the juvenile court refused to allow mother’s testimony at the 366.26 hearing about the minor’s relationship with his siblings. During mother’s testimony at a 366.26 hearing, mother’s counsel asked her if she had any other children. Mother responded that she did, and counsel for CFS objected on the basis of relevance. Mother’s counsel explained that the minor at issue had a relationship with the maternal family, including his full siblings. The juvenile court stated that the only relevant relationship was the one between the minor and parents, and curtailed the testimony. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a hearing on the degree, if any, of the relationship between the minor and his siblings. Contrary to the juvenile court’s statement, the minor’s relationship with his siblings was also at issue. This is because substantial interference with a strong relationship with any sibling is one of the specifically enumerated exceptions to termination of parental rights. The court’s prohibition against further questioning regarding the minor’s bond with his siblings eliminated any basis for mother to argue that the sibling relationship exception applied. The error cannot be deemed to be harmless because there was no other evidence in the record that showed how long the minor and his sibling may have lived together and what the degree of their bond might have been.