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In Re A.C., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. A.L

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Sacramento)


February 17, 2011

IN RE A.C., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. SACRAMENTO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
A.L., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Super. Ct. No. JD218865)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mauro,j.

In re A.C. CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A.L., father of minor A.C., appeals from a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395 [further undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code].) In the trial court, father did not establish any exception to the statutory preference for adoption that would have prevented termination of his parental rights. On appeal, however, father contends he has standing to assert mother's alleged beneficial relationship with the minor. (§ 366.26, subd. (c)(1)(B)(i).)

We conclude father lacks standing to assert an exception involving mother's relationship with the minor, because the circumstances asserted by father have no bearing on whether the trial court erred in terminating father's parental rights. We will dismiss the appeal.

FACTS

Minor was first removed from mother's custody in December 2002 due to mother's neglect. After 16 months of services, minor was returned to mother's care under supervision. The first dependency was terminated in December 2004.

In June 2008, the nine-year-old minor was again removed from mother's care. Mother was not taking her medication and her resulting irrational behavior placed minor at risk of harm.

The jurisdiction disposition report stated father was incarcerated in state prison. Minor wanted to live with mother if mother could take care of her. The maternal grandmother told the social worker that minor often stayed in her home while mother was gone for extended periods. An addendum report recommended denying services to father, stating he had two violent felony convictions and had been in and out of custody for the last six years. At disposition, the court denied reunification services for father pursuant to Robert L. v. Superior Court (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 619, 627-628 [service plan not required for non-custodial parent who is not seeking custody] and ordered reunification services for mother.

During the reunification period, mother had supervised visitation with minor. Mother missed a few visits in the first six months of reunification but became more inconsistent in attending visits as time went on. Mother failed to reunify and the court set a hearing to select a permanent plan pursuant to section 366.26.

The November 2009 report for the section 366.26 hearing recommended long-term foster care for minor because the foster parent was having family problems which could preclude pursuing guardianship of the minor. An addendum report in January 2010 stated the foster mother had resolved some of the issues which precluded guardianship as a permanent plan, but that minor did not favor either adoption or guardianship. A supplemental report in April 2010 stated minor was now willing to be adopted if she could keep her name and have ongoing contact with her birth family. The foster mother agreed to permit this. Minor indicated she was tired of waiting for her mother and family, none of whom sent her a card or called to talk to her on her birthday.

Father filed a pre-trial statement identifying the following legal issues for trial: whether termination of parental rights would be detrimental to the minor, and whether the minor was adoptable. At the section 366.26 hearing, which commenced in June 2010, father was present in custody and mother was not present. During the hearing, father argued that minor's wishes should be entitled to great weight although she was not yet 12 years old. Father opposed termination of parental rights because of minor's relationship with mother.

Mother's counsel called minor to testify. Minor said she had a close relationship with mother and would prefer to live with her. Minor further testified she was very happy in her current placement. She understood adoption meant it was possible she would not see her mother again, but that her foster mother told her she was going to be able to see her mother. Minor stated she would prefer guardianship as a permanent plan. Minor added that, if the foster mother changed her mind about letting her see her family, she would not want to be adopted, but she trusted her foster mother to follow through with what she had said. Minor expressed ambivalence about adoption, feeling both sad because her parents' rights would be taken away and happy because she would get to stay with her foster mother. When questioned by the court, minor stated she was concerned about adoption if it meant she would not be able to see her family, but she believed the foster mother would let her see her family whether the plan was guardianship or adoption because her foster mother loved her. She did understand that seeing her mother was the foster mother's decision but if she could not see her mother, she would ask to be removed from the foster home.

Father's counsel agreed with mother's position that termination would be detrimental to minor because continued contact with mother would benefit minor. Counsel stated that father wanted the court to do what minor wanted to do and it did not appear that minor fully endorsed adoption as a permanent plan.

In ruling, the court noted minor's positive demeanor when testifying about her foster mother. The court observed there was clearly a significant parental bond with the foster mother and that minor trusted her. The court also found there was a bond of some sort between minor and mother, but it was outweighed by the bond minor had with her foster mother. The court stated that, because minor was not 12 years old, her objections to adoption were not dispositive.

The court found minor was likely to be adopted and moved to the question of an exception to the preference for adoption as a permanent plan. The court said it would be difficult to describe mother's visitation as regular. Further, mother had not progressed beyond supervised visits and, while the visits were fun and loving, they did not show parental care. The court expressed concern that guardianship would subject minor to ongoing uncertainty about her placement and disruption of her life due to mother's instability. Concluding that minor deserved permanency, the court found termination of parental rights would not be detrimental to minor and declared minor free from parental custody and control.

DISCUSSION

Father argues he has standing to assert mother's alleged beneficial relationship with the minor in his appeal of the termination of his parental rights.

Whether a party "has standing in a particular case generally revolves around the question whether that person has rights that may suffer some injury, actual or threatened." (Clifford S. v. Superior Court (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 747, 751.) "'[A]ny person having an interest recognized by law in the subject matter of the judgment, which interest is injuriously affected by the judgment' is considered a 'party aggrieved' for purposes of appellate standing." (Cesar V. v. Superior Court (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 1023, 1035.) The interest must be substantial and immediate, not nominal or remote. (In re Joshua S. (1986) 186 Cal.App.3d 147, 150.) However, "'[w]here the interests of two parties interweave, either party has standing to litigate issues that have a[n] impact upon the related interests.'" (In re Caitlin B. (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 1190, 1193.) If the interests do not intertwine, a party may not raise issues on appeal which do not affect his own rights. (Ibid.)

In the trial court, father's counsel asserted mother's beneficial relationship with minor. But father did not establish his own beneficial relationship with the minor, and he did not establish any other defense to termination of his parental rights. "[T]he mere fact a parent takes a position on a matter at issue in a juvenile dependency case that affects his . . . child does not alone constitute a sufficient reason to establish standing to challenge an adverse ruling on it." (In re Carissa G. (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 731, 736.)

Father cites rule 5.725(a)(2) [formerly rule 1463] of the California Rules of Court,*fn1 arguing that if mother's parental rights were improperly terminated, both parents' rights should be reinstated. But this court previously rejected such an argument. In the case In re Caitlin B., supra, 78 Cal.App.4th 1190, this court held that "[t]he rule merely requires that termination of both parents' rights occur in a single proceeding. [Citation.] That was done here. The rule was never intended to serve a terminated parent's interests in delaying termination. The stated purpose of the requirement that both parents' rights be terminated in a single proceeding 'is to free the dependent child for adoption.'" (Id. at p. 1194.)

In his reply brief, father contends he has interweaving interests with mother in the joint maintenance of their parental rights and in the minor maintaining contact with her biological family. We recognize that father may have a nominal interest in whether minor maintains a relationship with mother. But for purposes of father's standing in his appeal of the order terminating his parental rights, such a nominal interest is not sufficient. Father can only assert an exception to the preference for adoption that pertains to his own ability to maintain his parental rights.

Father also cites In re L.Y.L. (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 942, which involved whether a parent has standing to raise the sibling exception to termination of parental rights even though that exception does not relate to parental relationships. The court held that a parent has standing to raise any of the exceptions set forth in section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A)-(D), even those that do not relate to parental relationships, because each exception is a defense to termination of that parent's parental relationship with the child. (Id. at pp. 948-949.)

In re L.Y.L. is distinguishable from this case, however. In that case, the mother had standing to assert the sibling exception on appeal because on those facts, the exception pertained to whether she should retain her own parental rights. (In re L.Y.L., supra, 101 Cal.App.4th at p. 952.) But in this case, whether or not mother has a beneficial relationship with minor has no bearing on whether father should retain parental rights. Father is attempting to assert an exception that is personal to the other parent and does not have an immediate and substantial impact on his own interests. Under the

circumstances, father lacks standing to assert the beneficial relationship exception.

DISPOSITION

Father's appeal is dismissed.

We concur: BLEASE , Acting P.J. HULL ,J.


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