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Name: In re L.A.
Case #: H034276
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/18/2009

The juvenile court may order guardianship without the mother’s express waiver of reunification services if the mother’s whereabouts are unknown. The father appealed from a juvenile court order removing the minors from the parents, placing them in the custody of their paternal grandparents, and ordering reunification services. The father contended that the court erred by refusing his request to order a legal guardianship for the children under section 360, subdivision (a) because the court determined that the mother had not explicitly waived reunification services. He contended that the mother’s explicit waiver and consent for guardianship was not required because the mother was a noncustodial and disinterested parent who had been properly noticed but who had never appeared. The appellate court agreed with the father and reversed the dispositional order. The father here was entitled to waive services and request the court order a legal guardianship for the children. The record shows that the court believed it did not have the discretion to order a legal guardianship as requested because the mother had not explicitly waived her right to services. However, the court did have discretion to order a legal guardianship and order the required assessment report, which would include information about the department’s efforts to notify the mother. Therefore, remand was required for the court to exercise its discretion. If the mother is properly noticed and is not present, or waives her right to services, the court may order a legal guardianship if it is in the best interests of the children.