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Name: In re Nolan W.
Case #: S159524
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/30/2009
Summary

The juvenile court may not hold in contempt a parent who fails to satisfy a condition of reunification. The mother was sentenced to 300 days in custody for failing to enter drug treatment, a condition of her reunification. The appellate court found that the lengthy jail sentence was an abuse of the juvenile court’s discretion, but declined to resolve whether the court may under some circumstances enforce reunification orders through contempt proceedings and incarceration. The California Supreme Court granted the mother’s petition for review to determine whether the court had the authority to require the mother to participate in a drug-treatment program as a condition of reunification, and whether Welfare and Institutions Code section 213 authorized the juvenile court to hold her in contempt and incarcerate her for failing to comply with the program. The Court held that the juvenile court has the power to order a parent into treatment as part of a reunification plan. However, given the unique nature of reunification orders, the juvenile court may not use its contempt power to incarcerate a parent solely for the failure to satisfy aspects of a voluntary reunification case plan.