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Name: In re M.W.
Case #: B258054
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 07/30/2015

Single incident of domestic violence years earlier was not sufficient to support a finding that minors were at risk due to mother’s failure to protect from domestic violence. In an appeal from jurisdictional and dispositional findings, mother conceded that jurisdiction was proper due to her substance abuse, but contended that the allegations concerning her failure to obtain a protective order following a 2007 domestic violence incident with the father did not expose the children to a current risk of harm. Further, she contended that the evidence was insufficient to establish that she knew of father’s criminal history and sex offender status and placed the children at risk of harm by allowing him access to them. The court agreed to decide the case on the merits despite the fact that mother did not contest all the jurisdictional findings because the erroneous findings could potentially impact the current or future dependency proceedings. Further, a “refusal to address jurisdictional errors on appeal has the undesirable result of shielding erroneous or arbitrary rulings from review.” The court agreed with mother, and reversed those counts. The record showed that there was a single incident of domestic violence occurring more than seven years before the hearing. There was no evidence of subsequent altercations, and no evidence that father had seen much of the minors since 2012. None of the evidence suggested even a minimal risk that the children would be exposed to domestic violence. Likewise, there was no evidence that mother was aware of any of father’s criminal conduct, and she was surprised when DCFS informed her of it.