California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
In re D.R. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
P.R., Defendant and Appellant. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No.
DK13555A-B, Kim L. Nguyen, Judge. Reversed and remanded with
McGowan, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
C. Wickham, County Counsel, Kristine P. Miles, Assistant
County Counsel, and Stephanie Jo Reagan, Principal Deputy
County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
P.R., appeals the denial of his motion to modify judgment,
made pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section
388. Father claims the Los Angeles County
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) failed to
give him adequate notice of dependency proceedings involving
his two children. DCFS had served him by publication only.
The juvenile court found notice through publication was
adequate, because DCFS had exercised reasonable due diligence
to find him when his whereabouts were unknown. We conclude
the court erred in finding reasonable due diligence. We also
find the Hague Service Convention applies because Father is a
resident of Mexico. The lack of reasonable due diligence and
DCFS's failure to comply with the Hague Service
Convention warrants reversal of the judgment and remand to
the juvenile court.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Prior Dependency Matters
2001, Father's eldest three children were subjects of
dependency petitions. In September 2002, family reunification
services were terminated due to the parents'
“non-compliance” and in January 2004 the children
were placed with maternal grandmother. In April 2009,
Father's female companion struck one of the older
children on the leg with a belt. In August 2009, due to
Father's failure to provide care and supervision for the
children, the court ordered permanent placement for two of
the older still-minor siblings.
Petition and Detention
September 29, 2015, DCFS filed a petition alleging Z.R. and
D.R., then ages 4 and 6 respectively, came within the
jurisdiction of the juvenile court under section 300. Count
(a)(1) of the petition alleged mother burned Z.R. with a hot
spoon on the arm and mouth, and also struck Z.R. on the face
with a belt. Count (b)(1) of the petition alleged the Z.R.
faced substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm
because of mother's inability to supervise or protect the
child. Count (j)(1) alleged mother's abuse of Z.R. showed
there was potential for abuse of Z.R.'s sibling, D.R.
told DCFS Z.R. and D.R.'s biological Father, P.R., had
been deported to Mexico in 2014. P.R. was named as the
presumed father on the DCFS petition. This was confirmed at
the detention hearing. During the detention hearing on
September 29, 2015, the juvenile court removed the children
from mother's care and ordered reunification services for
her. The court continued the arraignment hearing for Father
to October 2015. The court ordered DCFS to follow up on
contact information they had for Father and to attempt to
retrieve a mailing address for him. At the next hearing, in
October, no contact had been made with Father and the hearing
was continued to January 2016.
Combined Jurisdictional and Disposition Hearing
January 7, 2016
combined jurisdictional and disposition hearing, the court
found DCFS had shown “due diligence” in
attempting to find Father, whose whereabouts were still
unknown. The court found notice had been given as mandated by
law. The court then declared Z.R. and D.R. dependent children
under sections 300(a)(b) and 300(a)(b)(j), respectively, and
removed them from mother's custody. The court also
limited mother's right to make educational decisions.
Even though the court had just made a due diligence finding,
the court continued the disposition hearing as to Father,
directing DCFS to follow up on his telephone number in Mexico
and on the “Facebook information, ” referring to
information obtained from adult son Joel about Father's
Father's Disposition Hearing February 23, 2016
dependency investigator “followed up” with Z.R.
and D.R.'s older half-sibling Joel. Joel told the
investigator he had had no contact with Father for
“about 4-5 months” and the last contact he had
was through Facebook. Joel also reported relatives in
Riverside had told him they did not have any information as
to Father's whereabouts. The investigator conducted a
Facebook search with the “available information,
” that is, Father's name and birthdate, and was
unable to accurately identify Father's Facebook profile
because there were “too many [people with the name
‘P.R.'] to identify.” The investigator also
talked to a staff member at Joel's group home who stated
Joel had reported no contact with Father. At the continued
hearing the court ordered that Z.R. and D.R. remain
dependents, ordered no reunification services for Father, and
permitted only monitored visitation if and when Father made
contact with DCFS.
Twelve-Month Status Review ...