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In re Cristian I.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division

March 19, 2014

In re CRISTIAN I., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
ANGELA H. et al., Defendants and Appellants. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,

Appeal from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. CK95577, Donna Levin, Juvenile Court Referee.

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M. Elizabeth Handy, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant, Angela H..

Darlene Azevedo Kelly, under appointment by the Court of Appeal for Defendant and Appellant, Zachary H.

John F. Krattli, County Counsel, James M. Owens, Assistant County Counsel, and Jeanette Cauble, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.



Describing the matter as “shocking to me, even after all of these years, ” and “one of the worse cases I have seen, where there’s such sadism... and such disregard for a child’s feelings, ” the experienced dependency bench officer in this proceeding sustained allegations under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (a) (serious physical harm inflicted nonaccidentally) (two counts), (b) (failure or inability to protect) (five counts), (i) (cruelty) (two counts) and (j) abuse of sibling (three counts); declared then-six-year-old Cristian I.[1] and his eight-month-old sister Alice H. dependents of the juvenile court; removed the children from the care and custody of their mother, Angela H., and from Zachary H., Cristian’s stepfather and Alice’s father (Angela’s current husband); placed Cristian in Arizona with his presumed father, Mark I.; and ordered an expedited evaluation by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) of possible placement of Alice with her maternal grandmother or great-grandmother. Reunification services for both Angela and Zachary were denied.

Without in any way challenging the overwhelming evidence of extreme physical abuse inflicted on Cristian by Zachary or attempting to defend her passive role in allowing Zachary to torture her son, Angela appeals from the

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jurisdiction findings and disposition order, emphasizing Cristian had been the subject of a family law custody order in Arizona and arguing, even though she was the custodial parent and living with Zachary and Cristian in California, the juvenile court’s findings and order are void because the court failed to fully comply with the procedural requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Fam. Code, § 3400 et seq.)[2] after it had initially exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction to protect Cristian. We affirm.


1. The Arizona Custody Order, Angela’s Move to California and Mark’s Efforts to Enforce His Parenting/Visitation Rights

Cristian was born in June 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. “Due to father [Mark] re-entering our child’s life, ” in September 2009 Angela and Mark, who had never married, signed a memorandum of understanding/childcare plan following a successful mediation through the Family Center of the Conciliation Court, Arizona Superior Court in Pima County. A September 28, 2009 Arizona state court family law order granted Angela sole legal custody and primary physical custody of Cristian. Mark was granted visitation/ “parenting time” over various weekend periods and holidays.

Angela and Zachary married on September 30, 2011 after dating for approximately three years. According to Angela, she, Zachary and Cristian moved to California sometime in 2011 while she was pregnant with Alice (who was born in May 2012). Angela subsequently told one of the Department’s social workers she left Arizona after Cristian told her and Zachary that Mark and Mark’s father had sexually molested him.

Records submitted by the Department, however, reflect that Cristian had attended school in Tucson through Friday, March 16, 2012, immediately before the school’s one-week Spring break. Mark reported he had gone to the school the following Friday, March 23, 2012, to pick up Cristian for the weekend, unaware the school was closed. (Mark stated Angela had confirmed he would be picking up Cristian on that Friday in his last conversation with her.) On March 24, 2012 Angela sent Mark a text message informing him she was traveling to California with Cristian. Mark, who had previously contacted the Tucson Police Department to report Angela’s interference with his visitation rights, filed a missing person report on April 10, 2012 with the Tucson police.

Following Cristian’s disappearance Mark initiated post-judgment proceedings in the Arizona family law case seeking full custody of his son. Angela

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was served by publication. On September 11, 2012 the court found Angela had taken Cristian out of the state without notice to Mark in violation of Arizona law and ordered Angela to return Cristian to Arizona to permit Mark to exercise his parenting time with the child. A further hearing was set for November 19, 2012. The court directed Mark to ...

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