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Name: In re: O.E.
Case #: F085319
Opinion Date: 09/29/2023
Attorney: Jesse F. Rodriguez

Father (who lived in Missouri) requested placement of his child pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.2. The juvenile court denied Father’s request based on its finding that the placement would be detrimental to the child. The Court of Appeal reversed because the detriment finding was unsupported by substantial evidence. The record showed Father is “a competent, caring and stable parent.” (In re Patrick S. (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 1254, 1263.) There was insufficient evidence that the child was so “extremely bonded” with her half-siblings and her relationship with them is so “much closer than in normal sibling relationships” that she would suffer emotional harm if she were separated from them. (In re Luke M. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 1412, 1426-1427.) Nothing in the record indicated placement with Father would take the child away from Mother’s ability to reunify. (In re John M. (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 1564, 1570.) The fact that the child had never lived with Father before was not determinative. (See In re C.M. (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 1394, 1403.) The juvenile court’s emphasis on Father not coming to California for in-person visits seemingly discounted the practical reality of maintaining relationships across state lines. Finally, to the extent the court believed supervision via the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (“ICPC”) was a prerequisite for placement, it was mistaken; under section 361.2, the court must first determine whether placement with the nonoffending noncustodial parent would be detrimental, place the child with said parent if there is no showing of detriment, and only then decide whether there is a need for ongoing supervision. (In re Austin P. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 1124, 1135; see § 361.2, subds. (a)-(b).) Furthermore, placement with an out-of-state parent may comply with ICPC procedure, but it is not required. If the court felt further investigation of Father was necessary, it should have continued the hearing and left the child in her temporary placement for the period of time necessary to gather information about Father. (John, supra, 141 Cal.App.4th at p. 1572.) The Court of Appeal ordered the matter remanded to the juvenile court with directions to hold a new dispositional hearing on the issue of placement under section 361.2.