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Yolo County Dep't of Child Support Services v. Lowery

August 21, 2009

YOLO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
TERRELL LOWERY, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Yolo County, Dennis A. Umanzio, Court Commissioner. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. FS061103).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cantil-sakauye, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Welfare and Institutions Code section 903*fn1 provides a parent is liable for the support of his minor child while the minor is placed or detained pursuant to an order of the juvenile court. Subdivision (e) provides an exception where the minor is placed or detained because he committed a crime against the person liable for support. The issue in this case is whether that exception applies to excuse a father from support obligations where his minor son is placed in foster care because he molested the father‟s minor daughters, the minor‟s stepsisters. Based on the plain meaning of the words of section 903, subdivision (e), we conclude the answer is no and affirm.

FACTS

The minor M. was born in January 1993. Based on his admission, Terrell Lowery was found to be the minor‟s father. Lowery was ordered to pay $475 a month in child support.

In April 2005, the minor went to live with Lowery. Lowery and the minor‟s mother stipulated Lowery owed no child support and Lowery requested no child support. The minor molested Lowery‟s daughters and subsequently pled no contest to lewd and lascivious acts upon a minor. The minor was removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Yolo County Department of Child Support Services (Yolo DCSS) registered the above-referenced support order and moved to modify it to require Lowery to pay support in the guideline amount. Yolo DCSS sought reimbursement from Lowery for the cost of M.‟s placement within its juvenile system.

In response, Lowery argued he was exempt from the support obligation under section 903, subdivision (e) (hereafter section 903(e)) because the minor had committed "a felony against me in my home." Lowery argued that while his daughters were the direct victims of the minor‟s crime, he was a derivative victim, as defined in Government Code section 13955, subdivision (c).

Yolo DCSS responded that the minor was in nonfederal foster care at a cost to the county of $5,000 a month. Yolo DCSS argued Lowery did not fall within the exception of section 903(e) because the minor‟s crime was not against him.

In April 2008, the court, in an oral statement of decision, found the section 903(e) defense did not apply. Two months later, in June, the court advised Lowery‟s counsel of this oral statement of decision and that no formal order had been submitted. The court ordered Lowery to pay $500 a month in child support only for the period December 1, 2007, through April 30, 2008. Both of these rulings were placed in formal orders on July 28.

In August 2008, Lowery appealed from the judgment or order entered on June 17, 2008. The clerk‟s notice of filing an appeal noted Lowery was appealing from the order after hearing of July 28, 2008.

DISCUSSION

Yolo DCSS notes that Lowery‟s notice of appeal sets forth an incorrect date for the order appealed from, but assumes this court will deem it an appeal from the judgment of July 28, 2008. Yolo DCSS‟s assumption is correct. We are required to construe the notice of appeal liberally. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.100(a)(2).)

Resolution of the issue in this case requires us to interpret section 903(e). Section 903, subdivision (a) provides in part: "The father, mother, spouse, or other person liable for the support of a minor, the estate of that person, and the estate of the minor, shall be liable for the reasonable costs of support of the minor while the minor is placed, or detained in or committed to, any ...


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