A child custody order issued by a court has the force and effect of the law. Under California law, a child may not be taken from the custody of a parent with whom he or she resides, unless the court finds there would be a substantial danger to the health, safety, protection or physical or emotional well being of the minor. A juvenile court must find that there is “clear and convincing evidence” of such danger. Further, the evidence need not show that the child has been actually harmed before the court will order the removal. In fact, the focus of the pertinent state law is on averting danger to the child.
Child custody issues are serious matters, the resolution of which can alter many important aspects of a family’s future. When confronting any kind of custody dispute, it is critical that you contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney who has extensive knowledge of the local laws and court procedures.
In a long and involved case, a mother appealed various aspects of a juvenile court’s ruling affecting her right to custody of her teenaged daughter. One of the issues on appeal is the court’s decision to remove the child from her custody and placing her with the girl’s father who lives in Nebraska. Here, County Children and Family Services filed a petition on behalf of the child alleging that the mother failed to protect her by: 1) leaving her alone and unattended for two nights and three days; 2) failing to make any arrangements for her supervision and care; 3) failing to provide adequate safety and shelter; and 4) maintaining the home in an unsanitary and cluttered condition.
According the record, the mother would go away for hours, days and nights, leaving the 14 year-old alone without any way for her to contact the mother. They had six dogs living at the house, which was filthy and showed signs of rodent infestation. A social worker confirmed that the father in Nebraska was willing and able to take the child into his home, but the original custody order prevented him from doing so. The social worker assessed the father’s living arrangements and found the home to be suitable for the child, who wanted to live with him. Relying on these facts, the juvenile court found (among other things) that the mother failed to provide adequate shelter and safety for the child, removed her from the mother’s custody and placed her with the father. The mother appealed.
Under California law, removal is proper if it is based on evidence of a parent’s inability to provide proper care for the minor, as well as proof of a potential detriment to the minor if he or she stays with that parent. Here, the court of appeals affirmed the juvenile court’s ruling, noting that the decision was supported by substantial evidence: the home was unsanitary, the mother left the child to take care of herself for various time periods – with no ability to contact the mother, and the daughter also had a degenerative medical condition. The court also pointed out that the child did not want to stay with the mother any longer.
Here, the court reviewed the relevant statute and applied these particular facts in order to render its removal order. As one can easily see, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney in such matters – to be sure that the court is presented with all of the important facts and circumstances related to your custody requests.
If you are a parent with questions about child custody matters, you are encouraged to contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC . Mr. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney and has been representing parents involved in child custody disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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