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Name: K.F. v. Superior Court
Case #: D064534
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/25/2014
Summary

Bypass of reunification services was reversed where severe physical abuse under section 300(e) finding was not based on clear and convincing evidence. The minor was removed from mother and father and declared a dependent due to severe physical abuse resulting in injuries. Petitions were sustained both under section 300(e) and section 300(b). The court specifically stated that its section 300(e) finding was based on a preponderance of the evidence, and the 300(b) finding was based on clear and convincing evidence. Services were bypassed under section 361.5(b)(5) based on the section 300(e) finding, and section 361.5(b)(6) based on the 300(b) finding, and a section 366.26 hearing was set. Both parents sought writ relief, challenging the denial of reunification services. The appellate court granted the petitions as to the denial of reunification. Denial of reunification services requires findings based on clear and convincing evidence. Because the court’s finding on the 300(e) was based on a preponderance of evidence, it could not support the denial of services under section 361.5(b)(5). The denial of services under section 361.5(b)(6) was also unsupported. Although the court’s section 300(b) finding was based on clear and convincing evidence, the infliction of harm finding required to bypass reunification services under that section was predicated on the same facts as the section 300(e) finding, which was established only by a preponderance of the evidence. The appellate court also rejected the Department’s argument that the mere existence of a section 300(e) abuse finding satisfies the clear and convincing evidence showing for purposes of bypass. The facts underlying the section 300(e) abuse finding must also be established by clear and convincing evidence. The court also denied father’s challenge to the sufficiency of evidence to support the section 300(e) finding.