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Kern County Dep't of Human Services v. Superior Court of Kern County

August 9, 2010


ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS; petition for extraordinary writ review. Robert J. Anspach, Commissioner. (Super. Ct. No. JD117897).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wiseman, Acting P.J.



Petitioner Kern County Department of Human Services (department) petitions for a writ of mandate after respondent Kern County Superior Court (juvenile court) refused to find the department properly noticed a parent of a jurisdictional/dispositional hearing on juvenile dependency supplemental and subsequent petitions (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 387 & 342).*fn1 The juvenile court believed the department had to serve the dependent child's father, who was living in Mexico, with notice pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters, November 15, 1965, 20 U.S.T. 361 (Hague Service Convention or Convention). The juvenile court also continued the hearing to October 2010 for compliance with the Convention.

Having reviewed the matter, we grant the department's petition. We conclude the Hague Service Convention does not apply to supplemental and subsequent juvenile dependency proceedings in light of the juvenile court's ongoing dependency jurisdiction and provided it has previously found proper notice to the parent. Alternatively, assuming arguendo the Convention could apply to supplemental and subsequent juvenile dependency proceedings, we conclude any duty to serve notice under the Convention was discharged in this case by the father's general appearance in the juvenile court after the department filed its subsequent and supplemental petitions.


In September 2008, the juvenile court exercised its dependency jurisdiction over 23-month-old M., adjudged him a juvenile dependent, and removed him from parental custody. The dependency arose out of his parents' substance abuse and domestic violence. The child's father made a general appearance at the child's earlier detention hearing, received proper notice of the September 2008 jurisdictional/dispositional hearing, and otherwise participated in M.'s dependency proceedings.

Indeed, a year later, both parents so participated and made such progress towards alleviating the causes for M.'s out-of-home placement that the juvenile court returned the child to parental custody subject to family maintenance services. The court also continued its dependency jurisdiction.

The department, however, redetained M. in December 2009 based on injuries his half sibling received, allegedly caused by the father and related to his drug relapse. The department consequently filed a supplemental petition (§ 387) to once again remove M. from parental custody and a subsequent petition (§ 342) to raise a new ground for the juvenile court's jurisdiction over M., namely child abuse (§ 300, subd. (a)).

The father attended a December 21, 2009, detention hearing on the subsequent and supplemental petitions. He and the mother denied the petitions' allegations and waived time. The court ordered the child detained and concluded by setting the matter for a February 2, 2010, jurisdictional/dispositional hearing on both petitions.

At the time of the December 2009 detention hearing, the father was in custody, having been arrested due to the harm suffered by M.'s half sibling. The father expected to be deported to Mexico after trial. However, the charges were soon dismissed. On December 31, 2009, the father was released from custody and voluntarily agreed to be deported to Mexico.

On January 11, 2010, the department served father notice of the February 2, 2010, jurisdictional/dispositional hearing by first-class mail, pursuant to statute, at his last known address and the Lerdo Correctional Facility in Kern County. Within a matter of days, the department also initiated a due diligence search for him.

In February 2010, a department social worker located the father in Mexico and had a telephone conversation with him. During the conversation, the father provided his street address in Mexico. The department, in March 2010, used the Mexico address to send the father notice, in Spanish, of the jurisdictional/dispositional hearing, by international registered mail, return receipt requested. By that point, the juvenile court had continued the jurisdictional/dispositional hearing to a May 2010 date. The notice of hearing was delivered to the father on April 8, 2010. Another department social worker later made telephone contact with the father. He confirmed he received the notice of hearing and stated his intention to return to the United States in order to attend the May hearing.

The father was not present at the May hearing. The court trailed the matter to June 2. The father was also ...

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