California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
In re C.M., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ROBERT M., Defendant and Appellant.
APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. DK03329. Debra Losnick, Juvenile Court Referee. Reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded with directions.
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Eva E. Chick, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
Richard D. Weiss, Acting County Counsel, Dawyn R. Harrison, Assistant County Counsel and Sarah Vesecky, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Cristina Gabrielidis, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Minor C.M.
Robert M. (father), the noncustodial and nonoffending father of C.M., appeals from the juvenile court’s dispositional order granting physical custody of C.M. to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for placement with maternal grandparents. Both C.M. and DCFS filed respondents’ briefs in support of the order. We agree with father that there was insufficient evidence that placement with father would be detrimental to C.M. Therefore, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.2, subdivision (a), we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Mother and father were living together but not married when C.M. was born in August 2000. According to the Paternity Questionnaire completed by mother in these dependency proceedings, father provided financial support and maintained a relationship with C.M. C.M.’s half sibling, S., was born in November 2005. At all relevant times, C.M. and S. (collectively, the children)
lived with mother in the maternal grandparents’ home. Other maternal family members lived in the same apartment complex.
From 2004 until 2013, the children were the subject of six referrals, all of which DCFS concluded as unfounded or inconclusive. In a March 2013 interview, then 12-year-old C.M. told a social worker that mother hit her occasionally, but she could not recall any resulting marks or bruises; mother called S. fat and told her she would not get married or have babies; mother also called C.M. names, told C.M. mother never liked her and that father left them because C.M. was horrible; mother had threatened suicide; mother slept a lot when she took her medication but mother believed she did not need medication because there was nothing wrong with her. C.M. told the social worker that she saw father on weekends and things were better there, but she did not want to live with him. Mother and the maternal grandparents denied that mother had any mental health issues.
S.’s absence from school for 50 days prompted another referral in May 2013, which resulted in mother agreeing to a voluntary maintenance plan in July 2013. C.M. continued to have regular contact with father and his wife (stepmother), including frequent telephone calls and unmonitored overnight visits for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which C.M. said she enjoyed. C.M.’s therapist encouraged these contacts.
On January 9, 2014, mother was arrested following an incident in which she pushed maternal grandmother to the ground causing her to lose consciousness; mother next threw a vase at a cousin; the vase hit that cousin’s mother (maternal aunt) causing injuries which required surgery to repair severed tendons. DCFS did not learn about the incident until two weeks later, after a family maintenance worker was unable to make contact with mother. When asked about what happened, maternal grandmother ...