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In Re Gloria A., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Guadalupe S

January 31, 2013

IN RE GLORIA A., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
GUADALUPE S., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Robert Stevenson, Juvenile Court Referee. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK76296)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rothschild, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Reversed with directions.

Appellant Guadalupe S. is the paternal grandfather of Gloria A. who has been declared a dependent child of the juvenile court based on the absence of parental care and support. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 300, subds. (b) & (g).) Guadalupe challenges the court's dependency finding and all subsequent findings and orders on the ground that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA or Uniform Act). (Fam. Code, §§ 3400 et seq.) Respondents, Gloria and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), contend that the court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Act and the DCFS contends that, in any event, Guadalupe lacks standing to challenge the court's jurisdiction.

We hold that Guadalupe has standing to challenge the court's subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Act. On the merits, we hold that substantial evidence does not support the court's finding of "home state" jurisdiction under the Uniform Act. We reverse the court's orders and remand the case with directions to the court to determine whether an alternative basis for its jurisdiction existed under the Uniform Act and, if not, to proceed in accordance with that Act.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

Gloria was born on August 24, 2004, in Nayarit, Mexico. Sometime after killing Gloria's father, Gloria's mother (Mother) fled Mexico to the United States, bringing Gloria with her.*fn1 Their date and point of entry are disputed. It is undisputed, however, that on January 21, 2009, United States immigration officers apprehended Mother in San Fernando, California and returned her to Mexico where she was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to prison.

When Mother was arrested, she left Gloria in the care of Francisco O., Mother's boyfriend, who lived in Pacoima. In February 2009, Guadalupe, Gloria's paternal grandfather, arrived in Los Angeles County and attempted to take custody of Gloria from Francisco. When Francisco refused to release Gloria to him, Guadalupe contacted the police. The police in turn contacted the DCFS, which removed Gloria from Francisco's custody and placed her in a foster home.

On February 16, 2009, Guadalupe filed a petition in the family court of Nayarit, Mexico, seeking custody of Gloria.

On February 18, 2009, the DCFS filed a dependency petition in the Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging Gloria lacked parental care and support. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 300, subds. (b) & (g).) That same day the court ordered Gloria detained and ordered the DCFS to notify the Mexican consulate of the pending dependency proceedings, obtain documentation of the Mexican family court proceedings and evaluate Gloria's possible placement with Guadalupe in Mexico and with Gloria's maternal cousin in Sylmar. The court subsequently placed Gloria with the cousin.

On or about February 25, 2009, the family court in Mexico awarded Guadalupe temporary guardianship of Gloria.

Between June 2009 and August 2010, the juvenile court received evidence and heard argument on the issue of whether it had subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Act over the dependency proceedings pertaining to Gloria. (Fam. Code, §§ 3400 et. seq.).*fn2 Among other things, the court considered a rogatory letter from the Mexican family court demanding repatriation of Gloria to Mexico and stating that California courts lacked jurisdiction over Gloria because she had not lived in the state for the requisite time before the filing of the dependency petition.*fn3

On August 26, 2010, the juvenile court found that "Gloria has been here the requisite amount of time with respect to demonstrating that the court had exclusive jurisdiction [under the Uniform Act] with respect to Gloria; and that any orders made in Mexico [were] without jurisdiction. This court had jurisdiction, because under the [Uniform Act] I think the requisite time period has been made." (The court's reference to the "requisite time period" is a reference to one of the criteria for "home state" jurisdiction under the Uniform Act. As we discuss below, the evidence does not support jurisdiction on this ground.)

The court proceeded with adjudication and disposition hearings. It found Gloria to be a dependent child on the grounds alleged in the petition and that she should remain placed with her maternal cousin in Los Angeles County. The court ordered that Guadalupe be allowed weekend day visits with Gloria and gave the DCFS ...


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