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Adoption of J.W., A Minor. v. L.W

March 1, 2011

ADOPTION OF J.W., A MINOR. F.R., PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
L.W., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. 01AD00187)

Adoption of J.W. 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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Sacramento)

----

L.W., the biological father of J.W., appeals from court orders terminating his parental rights and granting F.R.'s petition to adopt J.W. L.W. contends the court erred in failing to appoint him counsel, failing to order him transported to the hearing where his parental rights were terminated, failing to provide sufficient notice of the hearing where his parental rights were terminated, and granting the order of adoption while his appeal from the order terminating his parental rights was pending.

We agree the trial court committed numerous errors. Accordingly, we vacate the order granting adoption and reverse the order terminating L.W.'s parental rights.

BACKGROUND

In March 2001, J.W.'s stepfather, F.R., filed a petition to terminate L.W.'s parental rights and adopt J.W., alleging L.W. had abandoned J.W. L.W., who was incarcerated at the time, filed an opposition to the petition, which was filed with the court in July 2001. In his opposition, L.W. requested an attorney be appointed for him and asked the petition be dismissed.

In September 2001, the probation department filed a report on F.R.'s adoption petition. In that report, the department confirmed that L.W. was listed as the father on J.W.'s birth certificate, and that mother had custody of J.W. through judicial decree. The report further indicated that L.W. failed to provide for J.W., even when he was able to, and that J.W. had been living with his mother and F.R. since June 1998. The probation department acknowledged that L.W. opposed the adoption; however, the department recommended the adoption petition be granted, provided L.W.'s parental rights were terminated.

The probation department also filed a report on F.R.'s petition to free J.W. from the custody and control of L.W. L.W. was recognized as J.W.'s presumed father, and L.W.'s "rap sheet" was included. The department recommended freeing J.W. from the custody and control of L.W. and found it would be in the child's best interest to be adopted by F.R.

There is nothing further in the record until April 2005, when F.R. filed a stepparent adoption request. Then, in March 2010, J.W.'s mother contacted the probation officer and indicated that F.R. wanted to pursue the adoption request and termination of L.W.'s parental rights. The probation department thus sent a letter to L.W. at the prison where he was then incarcerated and asked for information regarding his contact with and support of J.W. The department received a signed return receipt from the prison.

Shortly thereafter, L.W. sent a letter to the probation department stating his continued opposition to the pending petition to terminate his parental rights. He claimed that J.W.'s whereabouts were withheld from him and that J.W.'s mother denied L.W. all contact and communication with the child. L.W. further claimed that he loved and cared for his son and believed the mother could have arranged communication for them but did not. L.W. also said he had not been given notice of any court hearings and again asked the court to appoint legal counsel to "represent his interests."

J.W., then 14 years old, reaffirmed his desire to be adopted by F.R. He also indicated that he wanted L.W.'s parental rights terminated. The probation ...


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