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Name: In re S.B.
Case #: E058328
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/20/2013

Section 361.5, subdivision (b)(16) authorizes the court to bypass services where parents are required to register as sex offenders in any jurisdiction. In 2010, S.B.’s father was convicted of violating Penal Code section 288, subdivision (c)(1), and was required to register as a sex offender. In 2012, S.B. was removed from her mother’s care. Father hoped to regain custody but was instead denied reunification services pursuant to section 361.5, subdivision (b)(16). On appeal, he argued subdivision (b)(16) did not apply because he was not required to register as a sex offender under federal law and insufficient evidence established offering him services was not in S.B.’s best interests. The appellate court affirmed the orders. Under section 361.5, subdivision (b)(16) the court can bypass services to parents who are required to register as sex offenders under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). California has not fully implemented SORNA; however, a sex offender’s duty to register under SORNA is independent of the state’s obligation to implement its standards. Under SORNA, sex offenders in all jurisdictions must register and maintain registration, and, by citing SORNA, subdivision (b)(16) encompasses parents who are required to register in any jurisdiction, not just California. In addition, clear and convincing evidence established offering father reunification services was not in S.B.’s best interest, even if the court did err in considering unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse. Father had a long history of criminal conduct and substance abuse, and he lacked insight into the factors contributing to his criminal conduct, drug use, and sexual abuse, all of which had impaired his ability to parent S.B. in the past.