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Name: In re Justin O.
Case #: B287406
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/02/2020
Summary

The juvenile court abused its discretion when it denied Grandmother de facto parent status and did not allow her participation in a 387 hearing removing the minors from her custody. Grandmother adopted mother’s oldest child after a dependency proceeding in 2011. Grandmother also had custody of mother’s three younger children. In 2017, the Department filed a 387 petition accusing grandmother of physical abuse of one of the younger children. The evidence was inconclusive as to whether the trauma suffered by the minor was inflicted by grandmother, or accidental. The juvenile court denied grandmother de facto status, despite the undisputed facts that Grandmother had cared for the minors as a parent for an extended time. The court then refused to permit Grandmother to defend herself against the allegations of physical abuse. Her attorney was not permitted to introduce evidence or argue on Grandmother’s behalf. The juvenile court sustained the petition and removed the minors. On appeal, Grandmother challenged the denial of de facto status as well as the order sustaining the petition. The appellate court reversed the orders. The juvenile court made no factual findings and abused its discretion in denying Grandmother de facto parent status. It was undisputed that grandmother had a parental role over the minors. She displayed a strong commitment to them and they were clearly bonded to her, referring to her as “mom.” The fact that the Agency had alleged physical abuse did not warrant excluding Grandmother from participating in the proceeding. The very purpose of the hearing was to determine whether the allegations were true, and Grandmother should have been given an opportunity to defend against them. Further the juvenile court failed to follow mandatory procedures to adjudicate a section 387 petition. Moreover, contrary to respondent’s arguments, the appeal was not moot. The sustained findings of physical abuse has ongoing consequences for Grandmother in that her visitation with the younger minors, who remain out of her care, was severely restricted. Further, it could affect her ability to parent the oldest minor, who remained in her care. Remand was required in order to allow Grandmother to appear and offer evidence as a de facto parent at a contested hearing.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B287406.PDF