Termination of parental rights was affirmed where failure to notice father for jurisdiction and disposition hearings was harmless error. Father was arrested for possession of controlled substances. A month later, a removal order was issued for the infant minor. Notice was sent to father’s last known address. Father did not appear for the detention hearing. The juvenile court found that due diligence had not been completed as to father, and put the jurisdiction hearing over. Although there was no evidence of additional notice, at the jurisdiction hearing the court found the Department had completed the due diligence search for father. The court found that reunification was not in the minor’s best interest and ordered no reunification services. Father made his first appearance at the hearing on termination of his parental rights. He had been sentenced to 16 months in prison. The minor was bonded to the caregivers, who wished to adopt him. Father filed a section 388 petition, challenging the jurisdiction and disposition findings for lack of proper notice. The juvenile court denied the petition due to lack of a bond between father and the minor, and terminated parental rights. On appeal, father argued that the court should have granted his 388 petition because DCFS failed to notify him of the proceedings and failed to contact paternal relatives for his whereabouts. The appellate court agreed the Department did not exercise due diligence, and that efforts to locate and notice father were deficient. However, the court applied the Watson standard, and found that father did not show there was a reasonable probability of a more favorable outcome absent the notice error. Reunification services were properly denied under section 361.5(b)(10) and (11). Even before his incarceration, father showed no contact with the baby. He did not ask for presumed father status, and his relatives would not have been found to be appropriate placements due to their criminal histories. Nor did the relatives attempt to see the baby during the dependency case. Under the Watson standard, it was not reasonably probable that absent the notice error, father would have been granted reunification services, or his parental rights would not have been terminated. Therefore, the error was harmless and the termination of parental rights was affirmed.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B302804.PDF