October 2012 Archives

Parental Neglect Unnecessary In A Finding Of Dependency Court Jurisdiction Based On Parental Failure or Inability To Adequately Protect A Child

October 30, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

out-of-control-teens-1.jpgMaricela H. was an out-of-control teenager. She used drugs, drank, fought, and stopped going to school. In 2010, when she was 15 years old, she gave birth to a child. Despite her mother's best efforts to control her, Maricela continued engaging in risky, self-destructive behavior. She frequently ran away for days at a time, chased after older men, had unprotected sex, and used drugs and alcohol.

In 2011, when Maricela left home yet again, mother filed a police report and called the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The county detained Maricela and filed a dependency petition alleging Maricela was at risk of suffering serious physical harm or illness as a result of her mother's failure or inability to supervise or protect her adequately.

The dependency court sustained the county's petition. Mother Maria A. appealed, arguing substantial evidence did not support jurisdiction because there is no evidence of parental neglect.

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Spousal Support Termination: Former Wife's Marriage-Like Ceremony Did Not Terminate Former Husband's Obligation to Pay Spousal Support

October 23, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Spousal SUPPORT.jpgAndrew and Andrea had been married for less than five years when they separated in 2006. Andrew was a stock trader and Andrea, who had been a practicing attorney, stayed at home with the parties' young children. Andrea filed a petition for dissolution and requested temporary spousal and child support. The parties stipulated that Andrew would pay Andrea $32,547 per month in spousal support and $14,590 per month in child support.

In December 2008, Andrea became engaged to Todd. Andrea and Todd sent out invitations for a May 2009 wedding, registered for gifts, planned a honeymoon, and told their children they were getting married. However, according to Andrea, they decided not to marry while the litigation with Andrew was still unresolved. Rather than change their plans, however, they proceeded with the ceremony, and Andrea and Todd signed a traditional Jewish marriage contract. Immediately before the ceremony, the couple informed the rabbi that there had been a problem getting a marriage license. In June 2009, Andrea notified Andrew that she and Todd were not really married.

In October 2009, Andrew filed an OSC to terminate spousal support, on the grounds that Andrea had remarried. Alternatively, Andrew argued that spousal support should be terminated based on the following factors: his marriage to Andrea had been short term and he had already paid spousal support for a period exceeding half the length of their marriage; despite having a law degree, Andrea had made no effort to become self-supporting; and Andrea was cohabiting with Todd. The next day, Andrea filed an application for writ of execution, claiming that Andrew owed her $247,666 in past due support for the period from December 2008 to October 2009. The court issued the writ the same day.

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County's Evidence Failed to Establish Parents Knew Someone Was Harming Their Child

October 16, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

girlincourt.jpgThe Second Appellate District affirmed a dependency court order of dismissal. The court held that substantial evidence supported the dependency court's finding that a county family services agency failed to show that the parents of an injured child knew or should have known that someone was injuring their child.

Nine-month old Roberto C. fell unconscious while in the care of his babysitter. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a brain bleed. Shaken baby syndrome was suspected.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services filed a dependency petition, alleging that Roberto's parents either caused his injury, failed to protect him from injury, or knew that someone who had contact with Roberto was injuring him.

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Proof of Criminal Neglect Is Not Necessary For An Initial Adjudication of Dependency

October 9, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

images.jpgIn In re Ethan C. (2012) 54 Cal. 4th 610, 143 Cal. Rptr. 3d 565 , the California Supreme Court held that Welfare & Institutions Code section 300(f), which allows an initial adjudication of dependency if the child's parent caused the death of another child through neglect, does not require proof of criminal neglect. Here, the father's failure to strap his infant into a car safety seat, resulting in her death in a car accident, was a sufficient reason for adjudicating his other children dependent.

Cal Wel & Inst Code ยง 300(f) provides that any child whose parent or guardian caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court which may adjudge that person to be a dependent child of the court.

As a matter of background, a father decided that he needed to transport his 18 month old daughter Valerie to the hospital so that she could be examined to determine the nature of an injury to her arm. The father, William, borrowed a car that did not have a child safety seat, and Valerie rode on an adult's lap. On the way to the hospital, another car collided with William's car, killing Valerie. William was not at fault for the accident, but there was evidence that Valerie would not have died had she been secured in a safety seat.

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Goals of Sonoma County Dependency Proceedings

October 2, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

brokenhome.jpgJuvenile dependency court can have a significant impact on the lives and futures of children and families. In most cases, a dependency case comes to court shortly after a child has been removed from their home by the police or a social worker. The police or social worker may remove a child from their home if they have a reason to believe the child is not safe, or if there is a credible threat against the safety and well-being of the child.

The dependency system has traditionally be viewed as having three primary goals for each child made a dependent of the juvenile court: (1) the safety and protection of the child; (2) the preservation of the family, if it can be done safely and in a timely manner; and (3) the timely provision of a stable, permanent home for the child. Underlying these three is the fundamental goal of serving the child's best interests.

The first and foremost goal of the dependency system is to protect children who have been seriously abused, neglected or abandoned or who are at substantial risk of being so abused or neglected. Thus, the safety, protection, physical and emotional well-being of dependent children is the primary goal of the dependency system.

Second and equal in importance so long as it can be done safely, is the public commitment to preserve families and safeguard parents' fundamental right to raise their children. So important is this goal of family maintenance and reunification that the California Supreme Court has noted, "up until the time the section 366.26(termination of parental rights) hearing is set, the parent's interest in reunification is given precedence over the child's need for stability and permanency" [ In re Marilyn H. (1993) 5 Cal. 4th 295, 310, 19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 544, 851 P.2d 826] . This is not to say that family preservation and reunification is not also in the child's interest. Children have a right to and an interest in remaining part of their family of origin, when it can be done safely. Thus, family preservation and reunification can serve both the interest of the parents and the child.

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