Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
by
This case began when, in December 2016, plaintiff-respondent San Bernardino Children and Family Services (CFS) learned that Mother threatened to physically abuse J.W., the youngest of her two daughters, then one year old. Mother had called 911 and threatened to stab herself and J.W. Police officers detained Mother and temporarily committed her pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150. CFS’s detention reports stated that, a few weeks prior, Mother had moved to California from Louisiana, where she had been living with A.W., J.W.'s father. According to a family friend, Mother was spiraling into depression in Louisiana and had mentioned relinquishing her children to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. The family friend urged Mother to come live with her in California, which she did. The family friend also informed CFS that in 2010 Mother had suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring dozens of surgeries, from a car accident that killed Mother’s mother and sister. Since the accident, Mother had suffered from grand mal seizures and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. CFS petitioned for J.W. and her older half-sister L.M. After the detention hearing, the juvenile court found a prima facie case and detained the children. Although the detention reports noted Mother’s recent move from Louisiana, CFS did not address whether there was jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, and the juvenile court made no finding concerning the UCCJEA. Ultimately Mother's rights to the children were terminated. A.W. challenged the termination, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the UCCJEA, such that Louisiana should have been the forum for the case. Mother contended the juvenile court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The Court of Appeal determined that, even assuming the juvenile court lacked UCCJEA jurisdiction, A.W. forfeited the ability to raise his argument on appeal. "Forfeiture would not apply if the UCCJEA provisions governing jurisdiction implicated the courts’ fundamental jurisdiction, but...they do not." The Court determined there was no failure to apply the ICWA, “ICWA does not obligate the court or [child protective agencies] ‘to cast about’ for investigative leads.” View "In re J.W." on Justia Law

by
The trial court granted A.B.’s (Mother) Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition to return her three-year-old son (I.B.) to her care. The court ordered that I.B.’s older brother A.B. (five-years-old) would remain with foster parents who had been interested in adopting both boys. I.B.’s counsel filed this appeal, arguing the siblings should not have been separated. In addition, I.B.’s counsel and the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA), agreed the juvenile court erred because Mother did not demonstrate a change in circumstances, or that changing I.B.’s custody was in his best interests. Mother and A.M. (Father) filed briefs asserting the trial court’s ruling should not be disturbed. Mother also filed a request asking the Court of Appeal to take judicial notice of a recent order showing the attorney representing both I.B. and A.B. declared a conflict of interest and now only represented A.B. After carefully reviewing the record, "while it is a close case," the Court of Appeal could not say the trial court abused its discretion. The Court therefore affirmed the order granting Mother’s section 388 petition. The Court granted her request for judicial notice of the juvenile court’s order dated April 3, 2020. View "In re I.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
A juvenile court has the authority to order vaccinations for dependent children under its jurisdiction. Recently enacted Health and Safety Code section 120372, subdivision (d)(3)(C) provides that a state public health officer (SPHO) or a doctor designated by a SPHO "may revoke the medical exemption." The Court of Appeal held that section 120372, subdivision (d)(3)(C) does not deprive the juvenile court of that authority.After determining that this case was not moot, the court rejected father's contention that the juvenile court had no legal authority to revoke the vaccination exemptions from a past treating physician and to order that the children be vaccinated. The court held that evidence in the record supported the juvenile court's finding that the children needed vaccinations. The court also held that there is no statutory bar to preclude the juvenile court from ordering dependent children to receive medically necessary vaccinations. Finally, the court held that the juvenile court could reasonably find that the past treating physician did not know the children's current need for vaccinations and father's remaining contentions do not show grounds for reversal. View "In re S.P." on Justia Law

by
After the juvenile court declared the children dependents of the court under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 and before the juvenile court's review hearing, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. In this appeal, father, mother, the children, and the Department contend that the juvenile court erred in continuing the review hearing six months beyond the time period allowed by statute as modified by emergency order.The Court of Appeal granted a peremptory writ of mandate vacating the juvenile court's April 29, 2020, order continuing the section 364 review hearing pursuant to Judge Greenberg's memoranda. The court stated that Judge Greenberg's memoranda require a continuance beyond not only section 364's six-month deadline but also beyond the additional 60-day continuance Emergency rule 6 permits. Therefore, they are contrary to state law. Although the juvenile court stated that "good cause" supported the continuance from May 14, 2020, to January 28, 2021, there is no indication the juvenile court relied on section 352, which permits the continuance upon a showing of good cause, in continuing the hearing. The court held that the juvenile court's order does not reflect that the juvenile court granted the continuance based upon consideration of the children's best interests. Rather, the court held that the juvenile court continued the hearing in accordance with Judge Greenberg's prioritization schedule, which precludes an individual bench officer from advancing a hearing in a manner contrary to the schedule without approval from a supervising judge. View "D.P. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
Father appealed from the juvenile court's order terminating his parental rights to his child, challenging the denial of his Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition. Father sought to vacate all relevant jurisdiction and disposition findings for which he received no notice.The Court of Appeal held that DCFS's efforts to locate and notice father were deficient where DCFS conducted no additional due diligence between January 14th (when the juvenile court found diligence inadequate) and February 13th (where the juvenile court found it sufficient), and DCFS never asked the parental relatives for father's whereabouts. However, the court applied the Watson standard and held that it is 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. View "In re S.P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
The Court of Appeal granted mother's petition for an extraordinary writ from the juvenile court's orders terminating reunification services and setting a Welfare and Institution Code section 366.26 hearing as to her daughter. The court held that, while the evidence supported the juvenile court's decision forbidding in-person contact for an initial period, it does not support depriving mother of visitation for an entire 18-month period. Therefore, the court held that the juvenile court's no-contact visitation order was not reasonable sometime around February 2019 and afterward. The court instructed the juvenile court that it shall set a continued 18-month review hearing at the earliest convenient time and direct the department to file an amended case plan incorporating family therapy and therapeutic supervised visits and any other services that would enhance mother's relationship with daughter. Furthermore, at the continued 18-month review hearing, the juvenile court shall provide mother an additional period of reunification services. View "Serena M. v. Superior Court of Fresno County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
In this marital dissolution case, mother contends that the trial court did not properly determine father's annual gross income under Family Code section 4058 and thus erred in calculating the amount of child support owed. After the trial court issued its decision, the Court of Appeal decided the question of statutory construction involving depreciation in In re Marriage of Rodriguez (2018) 23 Cal.App.5th 625, 635. In Rodriguez, the court held that a self-employed parent's depreciation deductions for motor vehicles did not constitute expenditures required for the operation of the business for purposes of section 4058, subdivision (a)(2).The court now extends the statutory interpretation for motor vehicles to depreciation deductions for equipment and other assets used in the self-employed parent's businesses. The court explained that the term "expenditure" describes an actual outlay of cash. The court held that claiming a depreciation deduction on an income tax return does not require an outlay of cash and thus does not reduce the funds available for child support. The court also held that the burden of proving that the expenses claimed on the tax returns constitute expenditures required for the operation of the businesses is properly allocated to the self-employed parent who controls the corporations. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hein v. Hein" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's orders terminating jurisdiction over 10 year old T.S. and six year old Christian pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 364, granting sole legal and physical custody to the children's mother; and granting visitation to father. The court held that father was entitled to an evidentiary hearing before the juvenile court terminated jurisdiction and issued exit orders; the juvenile court properly requested an offer of proof; and father's offer of proof was sufficient to warrant an evidentiary hearing. View "In re T.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
Wife Carolyn Mullonkal and husband Sithaj Kodiyamplakkil were married for three years and five months. Husband appealed the judgment of dissolution and some post judgment orders, contending: (1) the community was entitled to reimbursement, under Family Code section 2641, for community funds spent repaying wife’s educational loans; (2) reimbursement was also required for community funds used to pay wife’s non-educational loans; (3) wife breached her fiduciary duty by transferring community property to family members; (4) the trial court abused its discretion in awarding only $10,000 of the over $108,000 in attorney’s fees he incurred; (5) the court also abused its discretion in denying a new trial; and (6) the trial court erred in finding a bank account of husband’s was community property. The Court of Appeal agreed with husband as to every contention except the fifth. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Marriage of Mullonkal & Kodiyamplakkil" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
Subdivision (j)(1) of Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6 provides that civil harassment restraining orders are subject to modification or termination on the motion of a party, but does not specify the grounds for modification.In the published portion of this opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed and resolved several legal questions involving section 527.6, subdivision (j)(1) that have not been explicitly decided in a published decision. First, the court held that the determination whether to modify or terminate a civil harassment restraining order is committed to "the discretion of the court;" second, the trial court's discretionary authority to modify or terminate a civil harassment restraining order includes, but is not limited to, the three grounds for modifying ordinary injunctions set forth in section 533; third, a trial court has the discretion to modify a restraining order when, after considering the relevant evidence presented, it determines there is no reasonable probability of future harassment; and fourth, the restrained party seeking modification on the ground that there is no longer a reasonable probability of a future harm has the burden of proving this ground by a preponderance of the evidence. In this case, the court reversed the trial court's order denying Grandfather's request to modify a civil harassment restraining order and directed the trial court to vacate the order. View "Yost v. Forestiere" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law