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Name: L.C. v. Superior Court (2024) 98 Cal.App.5th 1021
Case #: B331041
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 01/16/2024

Substantial evidence did not support the juvenile court’s finding that it would be detrimental to return Minor to Mother based on Mother’s decision to remain in Mexico throughout the dependency case. The minor was removed from Mother when Mother was arrested for transporting Fentanyl. Father was never located. Mother returned to Mexico on the advice of her attorney and remained there throughout the case. Mother completed a drug program in Mexico and maintained a relationship with Minor through frequent video calls. Maternal grandparents, who also lived in Mexico, were approved by an international ICPC. The juvenile court was disapproving that Mother remained in Mexico during the case, pointing out that it would have been easier to confirm Mother’s sobriety if she had been in California. Further, Mother had not had any in-person visits with Minor or cleared up the warrant pending against her by surrendering herself. The juvenile court also felt that Minor’s developmental needs could not be adequately met in Mexico. At the 12-month review hearing, the juvenile court found a substantial risk of detriment if Minor was returned to Mother, terminated reunification services, and set the matter for a section 366.26 permanency hearing. Minor sought writ relief, which the reviewing court granted. Just as there is no go to jail, lose your child rule, there is no go to Mexico, lose your child rule. There is nothing in the dependency laws that require a parent to complete their services in the United States. Mother’s failure to return to Los Angeles and surrender to law enforcement does not support a finding of substantial risk of detriment. A parent’s absence from the country due to the immigration laws, whether by deportation or choice, should not control whether a minor should be returned to a parent’s custody. Here, Mother diligently sought out services and completed case plan requirements in Mexico. Further, there was no evidence in the record that the Agency in Mexico could not provide Minor with the services that he needed, even if superior services might have been available here. The petition for extraordinary writ was granted, the section 366.26 hearing was vacated, and a new 12-month review hearing was ordered to be held.