Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
Elisa W. v. City of New York
Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
C.D. (Mother) appeals from the trial court’s post-judgment order granting a request from G.D. (Father) that she enroll their minor daughters in public school. Mother contends the order must be vacated because, without a change in custody, Father has no decision-making authority regarding their daughters’ education. The Second Appellate District agreed with Mother and vacated the order. The court explained that A parent with “sole legal custody” has “the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” Here, Father requested a say in his daughters’ education by asking the trial court to order Mother to enroll them in public school. But because Mother has sole legal custody of the girls, Father has no right or responsibility concerning their education. To obtain those, Father had to secure joint legal custody by showing a significant change in circumstances. The court explained that the trial court erred when it granted Father’s request for an order directing Mother to send their daughters to public school. Prior to issuing such an order, the trial court was required to find that Father demonstrated a change in circumstances warranting modification of its initial custody order. Not making that finding was an abuse of discretion. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
In re Jerry R.
A.R. (Father) and S.R. (Mother) appealed from the juvenile court’s orders terminating their parental rights to three of their children, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.1. Father’s sole claim, joined by Mother, is that because Stanislaus County Community Services Agency (agency) failed to conduct a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry into whether the children are or may be Indian children, the juvenile court erred when it found that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) did not apply. The Fifth Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s finding that ICWA does not apply. The court explained that Section 224.2, subdivision (b), imposes on the county welfare department a broad duty to inquire whether a child placed into the temporary custody of the county under section 306 is or may be an Indian child. The court explained that at issue is whether a child taken into protective custody by warrant under section 340, subdivision (a) or (b) falls within the ambit of section 306, subdivision (a)(1). The court explained that based on the plain language of the statutes, it agrees with Delila D. that the answer is yes and, therefore, the inquiry mandated under section 224.2, subdivision (b), applies. The court further concluded that the juvenile court erred in finding the agency conducted a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry and that the error is prejudicial, which necessitates a conditional reversal of the court’s finding that ICWA does not apply and a limited remand so that an inquiry that comports with section 224.2, subdivision (b), may be conducted. View "In re Jerry R." on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
G.D. (Father) appealed the judgment approving the dissolution of his marriage to C.D. (Mother), granting her full custody of their minor daughters and barring all visitation. Father contends the custody and visitation orders attached to the judgment should be vacated. Father contends the custody and visitation orders should be vacated because there was insufficient evidence that he sexually abused F.D. and S.D. To him, only an evaluation conducted pursuant to section 3118 could provide the evidentiary basis necessary to permit the trial court to find that he abused his daughters. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that There are several problems with Father’s contentions. First, the trial court’s decision not to order a section 3118 evaluation was made, at least in part, at Father’s behest. Second, even if Father had not invited any error, he could not show prejudice. Third, no section 3118 evaluation was required here. If a trial court appoints a child custody evaluator and “determines that there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse,” it must order a section 3118 evaluation. The court explained that the trial court below did not determine there had been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. It was thus not required to order a section 3118 evaluation. Fourth, Section 3118 requires a trial court to order an evaluation when it appoints a child custody evaluator and determines there has been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. But section 3118 also grants a court the discretion to order an evaluation when abuse allegations arise in other contexts. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
In re V.C.
In December 2019, the Alameda County Social Services Agency filed a petition (Welfare and Institutions Code 300(b)(1) and (j)) regarding infant V.C., with allegations that his mother tested positive for methamphetamine at V.C.’s birth, resulting in V.C. experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A social worker had spoken with both parents, who each “denied any Native American ancestry.” Both parents completed and filed “Parental Notification of Indian Status” forms, checking the box: “I have no Indian ancestry as far as I know,” under penalty of perjury.In March 2020, the juvenile court found the allegations true, declared the children dependents, removed them from parental custody, and ordered reunification services, concluding that each child “is not an Indian child and no further notice is required under” the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901). In February 2021, the court terminated reunification services, set a section 366.26 hearing, and again concluded that ICWA did not apply. On remand for a new hearing concerning the beneficial relationship exception, the juvenile court again terminated parental rights, found “ICWA does not apply,” and identified adoption as the children’s permanent plan.The court of appeal conditionally reversed. The agency failed to comply with ICWA by not asking available extended family members about possible Indian ancestry. View "In re V.C." on Justia Law
In re N.F.
Defendant-Mother appealed the juvenile court’s order denying her post-permanency Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition that asked the court to grant her reunification services with her thirteen-year-old son N.F. The juvenile court terminated its dependency jurisdiction over N.F. in January 2021 after appointing paternal uncle as his legal guardian. Mother does not contest the merits of the court’s denial of her section 388 petition. Rather, she argued the juvenile court’s legal guardianship order must be reversed because the court and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) did not comply with their initial inquiry duties under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and related California law.The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Mother had the right to appeal from the court’s legal guardianship order, including the court’s implicit finding it continued to have no reason to know N.F. was an Indian child and the Department had satisfied its duty of ICWA inquiry. However, the time to so do expired many months ago. The court explained that Mother cannot now use her appeal from her post-permanency section 388 petition to challenge the legal guardianship order and findings made at the section 366.26 hearing—including the finding that ICWA did not apply. Further, the court explained that as the juvenile court did not vacate its order terminating its dependency jurisdiction over N.F. when it heard Mother’s section 388 petition—and a section 300 petition was not being filed on N.F.’s behalf—the court’s and the Department’s continuing duty of inquiry under section 224.2 was not implicated. View "In re N.F." on Justia Law
Vilches v. Leao
Vilches, the father and guardian of Doe (age 7), took her to Leao for treatment. Vilches later sued Leao to compel the release of Doe’s therapy records. Under Health and Safety Code 123110, the personal representative of a minor is entitled to access the minor’s patient records unless “[t]he health care provider determines that access to the patient records ... would have a detrimental effect on the provider’s professional relationship with the minor patient or the minor's physical safety or psychological well-being. The decision of the health care provider ... shall not attach any liability to the provider unless the decision is found to be in bad faith. Leao indicated she had determined that it would have a detrimental impact on Doe’s ability to trust in general, and would negatively impact the patient-counselor relationship. She was also concerned that Vilches would use the records to coach his daughter's responses in a court evaluation in an upcoming custody proceeding.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Leao, rejecting an argument that the absence of bad faith does not immunize a therapist’s determination from judicial review and that section 123110 creates a presumption of entitlement to disclosure. The statute does not require separate determinations for each type of patient record. When the provider makes the detriment determination, a plaintiff must show bad faith to compel disclosure. View "Vilches v. Leao" on Justia Law
In re Jayden M.
Mother has seven children by several different fathers: the child at issue in this case—Jayden M. (born 2021). On November 19, 2021, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) filed a petition asking the juvenile court to exert jurisdiction over Jayden on two grounds. On May 2, 2022, the juvenile court held the dispositional hearing. The court removed Jayden from Mother’s custody and also bypassed reunification services under subdivisions (b)(10) and (b)(11) of section 361.5. More specifically, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that bypass was proper under these provisions because (1) Mother’s reunification services or parental rights for Jayden’s older half-siblings had been terminated, and (2) Mother’s most recent four months of effort to address her drug addiction—did not eliminate the court’s “concerns” in light of her 20-year history of drug abuse problems and prior dependency cases. On appeal, Mother’s chief argument on appeal is that the juvenile court’s order bypassing reunification services was not supported by the record. The Second Appellate District affirmed the juvenile court’s order. The court held that the juvenile court’s finding is further supported by evidence that Mother has repeatedly relapsed after treatment and/or periods of sobriety in the past. This finding is consistent with the conventional wisdom and practical reality that short and recent periods of sobriety are often not enough to counter a longstanding pattern of use and relapse. Thus, substantial evidence supports the juvenile court’s finding that the effort underlying Mother’s brief period of sobriety after decades of drug abuse is not “reasonable.” View "In re Jayden M." on Justia Law
Hunter v. McMahon
Niagara County’s Child Protective Services successfully petitioned in Niagara County Family Court to strip Plaintiff of her parental rights over her minor son. Plaintiff appealed the Family Court’s decision. While that appeal was pending, she brought suit in federal court against officials and entities involved in terminating her parental rights. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Second Circuit vacated the judgment insofar as the district court denied Plaintiff’s motions for leave to amend and for additional time to serve defendants. The court held that the RookerFeldman doctrine does not apply when an appeal remains pending in state court. Rooker-Feldman applies only after the state proceedings have ended. View "Hunter v. McMahon" on Justia Law
In re H.B.
S.B. (father) appealed from the juvenile court’s order terminating his parental rights over his daughter H.B. pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code1 section 366.26. Father contends only that the juvenile court erred in finding the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) inapplicable based on the record of inquiry made by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) with H.B.’s extended family members. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the Department inquired about Indian ancestry with representatives from both sides of two generational levels of H.B.’s family. It contacted every person its interviewees identified as a likely source of information about ancestry. The juvenile court had an adequate basis on which to conclude the Department fulfilled its inquiry obligations under section 224.2, subdivision (b), and that neither the Department nor the court had reason to know or believe that H.B. is an Indian child. Under the court’s deferential standard of review, the juvenile court did not need the Department to contact every unnamed extended family member that had attended a court hearing, regardless of difficulty in doing so, to reach its conclusion. View "In re H.B." on Justia Law