Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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A mother appealed from juvenile court orders denying her petition for modification under Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 and terminating her parental rights under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26. The mother argued that the proceedings violated her substantive due process rights because the juvenile court was not required to consider her potential for further brain development, or her capacity to change, given her status as a teenager.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Three affirmed the juvenile court orders. The court rejected the mother's arguments, concluding that sections 366.26 and 388 did not violate her due process rights. The court found that the focus of the proceedings shifted to permanence and stability for the child once reunification efforts failed. This shift did not violate the mother’s rights, even though she was a teenage parent. The court reasoned that the mother’s youth did not change or lessen the child’s need for permanence and stability.The court also dismissed the mother's reliance on cases concerning juvenile offenders in the criminal context, stating that the objectives and interests of the criminal justice system are vastly different from those of the juvenile dependency system. The court noted that the legislative choices to shift focus from reunification to permanency, require a parent to demonstrate changed circumstances, and prefer adoption as a permanent plan, were not intended to punish the parent, but to focus on the child's rights in proceedings where expediency is critical to the protection of their interests. View "In re S.G." on Justia Law

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In the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, the case involved a mother contesting the juvenile court's decision concerning the permanency plan for her child, A. In July 2019, A was made a ward of the court and placed in substitute care under the Department of Human Services (DHS). Despite DHS's efforts, the juvenile court determined that the mother had not made sufficient progress to allow A's safe return home.The mother argued that the juvenile court applied an incorrect legal standard, asserting that she had made significant progress. The court, however, determined that the evidence was legally sufficient to support the juvenile court's conclusion that the mother's progress was inadequate for A’s safe return home.The court held that the juvenile court's "sufficient progress" determination is a legal conclusion rather than a factual finding. It concluded that the record developed in this case was legally sufficient to support the juvenile court's legal conclusion that the mother's progress was insufficient to make possible A's safe return home. As a result, the court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the juvenile court. View "Dept. of Human Services v. Y. B." on Justia Law

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This case arises from a parental rights termination appeal in Texas. The father had been the primary caregiver for his three children, including one-year-old twins and a three-year-old daughter. However, the father tested positive for methamphetamine and the children were removed by the Department of Family and Protective Services due to the father's drug use and homelessness. Although the father initially complied with a service plan, which included drug testing and treatment, he eventually refused further treatment and missed subsequent drug tests. The trial court terminated the father's parental rights, but the court of appeals reversed the decision, arguing that the Department had failed to prove harm to the children as a direct result of their father's drug use.The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the court of appeals' interpretation of "endanger" in the context of illegal drug use. It held that a parent's endangering conduct does not need to be directed at the child or result in actual injury to the child. Instead, endangerment encompasses a larger array of conduct that exposes a child to loss or injury, or jeopardizes the child's physical or emotional well-being. The court argued that the father's pattern of drug use, coupled with his homelessness, employment instability, and almost complete abandonment of his children for the six months preceding the trial, posed a substantial risk to the children's emotional well-being. Therefore, legally sufficient evidence supported the trial court's determination that the father's conduct endangered the children. The case was remanded to the court of appeals for a best-interest determination. View "In re R.R.A." on Justia Law

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In this case, F.K. (the Mother) filed a petition challenging the juvenile court's decision to terminate her reunification services and set a selection and implementation hearing regarding her daughter, A.R. The Mother contended that the Santa Barbara County Department of Child Welfare Services (the department) did not adequately consider her grief over the death of A.R.'s twin sister and did not provide reasonable reunification services. She also claimed that six months of services were insufficient.The Mother had a history of untreated alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and criminal convictions related to these issues. The juvenile court ordered her to receive reunification services after finding the dependency petition true and removing A.R. from her custody. The services aimed at addressing her substance abuse and its impact on her ability to safely parent A.R.The juvenile court decided to terminate the reunification services at the six-month review hearing after concluding that the Mother failed to make substantial progress in the court-ordered treatment plan. The court reasoned that it did not have discretion to extend services unless the Mother showed substantial compliance with the case plan. The court also found that the department had made reasonable efforts to return A.R. to the Mother's custody by providing reasonable services.The Court of Appeal agreed with the Mother's contention that the juvenile court erred in terminating the reunification services. The court noted that, at the six-month review, the juvenile court had the discretion to continue the case and forego setting a hearing to terminate parental rights even if it did not find a substantial probability of the child returning to the parent. The court concluded that the juvenile court did not exercise its discretion because it incorrectly believed it was bound to terminate services due to the Mother's lack of substantial progress. The Court of Appeal ordered the juvenile court to conduct a new section 366.21 hearing. View "F.K. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The case involves a mother appealing against a juvenile court's ruling that she neglected her infant son, AE. The infant was born prematurely and consistently underweight. Despite numerous hospitalizations and health professional instructions, the child's weight did not significantly increase while under the parents' care. However, the child showed substantial weight gain while hospitalized. The State filed a petition alleging that the parents neglected AE by failing to provide adequate care necessary for the child's well-being. The juvenile court ruled in favor of the State concerning the mother, but not the father, due to insufficient evidence against him.The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the evidence of the child's ability to gain weight in a hospital setting versus his home was enough to support the neglect adjudication against the mother. The court stressed that although the mother followed medical instructions and took AE to medical appointments, the child's failure to thrive at home pointed to neglect. This case demonstrates that the courts assess neglect based on the child's well-being and not necessarily on the intent or efforts of the parents. View "In the Interest of A. E. v. The State of Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The case involves a father, J.L., who appealed against orders that declared his children, P.L and L.L, to be dependents of the juvenile court and placed them with their mother, H.T. J.L. also contested the condition of his visitation rights, arguing that the court improperly delegated its visitation authority to the children. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency maintained that J.L. forfeited the issue by not raising it at the lower court level.The parents had a child welfare history dating back to 2019, with multiple referrals regarding J.L. physically or emotionally abusing the children. The parents divorced in 2023, and shared custody until an incident occurred where J.L. allegedly punched P.L. The Agency then obtained protective custody warrants for the children. The court placed the children with their mother and ordered liberal supervised visitation for J.L., considering the children's wishes on whether visits would go forward. This order was not objected to by J.L's counsel.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California concurred with the Agency and affirmed the lower court's orders. It held that J.L. forfeited his right to contest the visitation orders by failing to raise the issue at the lower court level. Furthermore, even if the issue was not forfeited, the appellate court found no abuse of discretion by the lower court in allowing the children to decline visiting J.L. The court explained that it was J.L.’s responsibility to request a specific change to the visitation order if he was unhappy with the children's refusal to visit him. View "In re P.L." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Florida reviewed a decision from the Fifth District Court of Appeal related to the termination of a father's parental rights. The father, identified as C.C., had been convicted 18 times over a 15-year period, including for domestic violence, arson, and driving while intoxicated. He was repeatedly incarcerated, leading to his lack of involvement in the life of his son, L.A., who was taken into state custody shortly after his birth due to his mother's physical abuse of his older brother. Despite minimal involvement in L.A.'s life, C.C. challenged the termination of his parental rights, arguing that the termination was not the least restrictive means of protecting L.A.The trial court had concluded that C.C.'s repeated incarceration, token support, and failure to maintain a substantial and positive relationship with L.A. constituted abandonment, and that his repeated incarceration and unavailability presented a risk of harm to L.A., despite his receipt of services. On appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluded that C.C. should have been provided with a case plan and the opportunity to comply with it before his parental rights were terminated.The Supreme Court of Florida disagreed with the Fifth District's decision, finding that it had improperly reweighed the evidence. The Supreme Court held that the trial court's determination that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting L.A. was supported by competent, substantial evidence, and it remanded the case to the Sixth District to affirm the trial court's order terminating C.C.'s parental rights. The court emphasized that the paramount concern was the welfare of the child and that despite the services provided to C.C., he had not been able to overcome the issues that led to L.A.'s dependency. View "Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office v. C.C." on Justia Law

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In this case, J.C.P., the father of A.P., appealed a juvenile court's decision to terminate his parental rights. The child had been placed in protective custody due to his negligence and was adjudicated in need of protection. Both parents were in default, and the court had extended protective custody for an additional nine months. The mother did not appear at any of the hearings, but J.C.P. did, except for the final status conference. At this conference, the State moved for default against J.C.P., and the court agreed, terminating both parents' rights.J.C.P. argued that the court had abused its discretion by taking judicial notice of the affidavit underlying the petition without receiving testimony or other evidence in support of termination. He claimed that the court's findings were erroneous as they were not supported by evidence in the record. The Supreme Court of North Dakota agreed, finding that the juvenile court had abused its discretion by relying on an affidavit that the State never offered and the court never received into evidence.The court also pointed out that the juvenile court should not have accepted the qualified expert witness's affidavit instead of testimony, as the parties had not stipulated to this. The Court concluded that the juvenile court's findings on termination were clearly erroneous because they were not supported by evidence in the record. As a result, the Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed the juvenile court order terminating parental rights and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Interest of A.P." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, State of California reviewed a case involving a mother (E.V.) who argued that the juvenile court lacked the authority to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a permanent restraining order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5. This section, in conjunction with section 311, implies that such authority is limited to dependency petitions filed by a probation officer rather than petitions filed by a social worker under section 300. The case arose after the juvenile court removed E.V.'s children from her custody due to drug use and negligence. Subsequently, the court granted a TRO request filed by one of the children (A.D.) against E.V. and later issued a permanent restraining order protecting A.D. from E.V. for a three-year period.The court, in this case, rejected E.V's argument, stating that in the context of the statutory scheme, probation officers and social workers are deemed the same. The court cited the legislative authority that allowed the delegation of duties from probation officers to social workers, making both terms interchangeable in juvenile dependency cases. Therefore, the court concluded that the juvenile court had the authority to issue a TRO and a permanent restraining order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5 in cases where the petition was filed by a social worker under section 300. The court affirmed the order of the juvenile court. View "Bonds v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The appellant C.B., the biological father of minor A.K., appealed from the January 2023 order of the juvenile court terminating his parental rights. The appellant argued that the juvenile court and the Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency (the Agency) denied his due process rights to notice and an opportunity to participate in dependency proceedings to establish presumed father status. T.K., the minor’s mother (mother), joined in C.B.’s arguments. The Court of Appeal of the State of California Third Appellate District agreed, finding that the juvenile court and the Agency did not comply with duties to try to identify all of the minor’s alleged fathers, to give adequate notice to C.B. that his parental rights were at stake in the proceedings, or to give C.B. notice of specific important hearings. Thus, it reversed the order terminating parental rights. The facts of the case reveal that when the minor was born, the Agency received a report that the mother tested positive for methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, and sexually transmitted diseases. The mother did not inform C.B. about her pregnancy and initially identified D.C. as the alleged father of the minor. However, paternity testing later showed that D.C. was not the biological father, and C.B. was identified as the potential father. Despite this, C.B. was not given proper notice of the proceedings or properly informed about their importance, and his due process rights were violated. View "In re A.K." on Justia Law