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Name: In re V.M.
Case #: B220976
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 12/22/2010

The court cannot assert dependency jurisdiction over a minor who has never been neglected or abused. The minor’s parents separated shortly after she was born because he was living with another family. When the child was four years old, her mother died and she and continued to live with her maternal grandparents, with whom she had lived all her life. The father and child visited on a monthly basis after the mother’s death and he provided financial support for her. Two years later, the father bought a bigger house and sought more visits because he wanted to gradually remove the minor from the grandparents and assert his right to custody. The grandparents hired a probate lawyer to obtain legal guardianship, and they reported to the Department of Children and Family Services that the father abused alcohol and neglected his daughter when he was drunk. The department filed a detention report based on the allegations. After a contested jurisdictional hearing, the court found none of these allegations were true. Nevertheless, on its own motion the court amended the allegations in the petition and found that the father had abdicated his role of father. Father appealed and the court reversed. Abdication of parental role is not a statutory basis for dependency jurisdiction. To exercise jurisdiction under section 300, subdivision (b) there must be evidence of substantial risk of serious physical harm or injury. There was no evidence of that here. The court ordered the dependency case be dismissed.