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In re J.A.

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

December 6, 2019

In re J.A. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
J.A., Defendant and Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County Nos. J273242, J273243 Steven A. Mapes, Judge. Dismissed.

          The Blue Law Group and Michael K. Blue, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Michelle D. Blakemore, County Counsel, and Jamila Bayati, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


          SLOUGH J.

         Sixteen months after the jurisdiction and disposition hearing where the juvenile court placed J.A.'s (mother) twin children with their nonoffending, noncustodial father and dismissed the dependency with family law exit orders, mother attempts to challenge the court's findings and unwind the removal order. Relying on our decision in In re A.O. (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 145 (A.O.), she argues we should excuse the lateness of her appeal because the juvenile court failed to advise her of her appellate rights at the close of the hearing, as required by California Rules of Court, rule 5.590(a).[1] We conclude A.O. and the line of cases preceding it are distinguishable and do not apply to this case. We will therefore dismiss the appeal as unjustifiably late.

         I FACTS

         A. Jurisdiction and Disposition

         The subjects of this now-closed dependency are an 11-year-old boy and his twin sister, who were nine years old in October 2017 when respondent San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) filed petitions on their behalf. The petitions alleged mother neglected and emotionally abused the boy, which also placed his sister at risk of harm. At the time, CFS had an open case with mother. They decided to file the petitions, however, after an incident where mother was driving with the twins, became upset with the boy, drove him to a nearby hospital, and tried to abandon him there. Mother walked into the hospital with the boy and told him to wait there, as she ran out. Hospital staff and security had to barricade her in the parking lot, reach through the window of her van, place it in park, and take the keys to stop her from leaving her son. According to hospital staff, mother said her son was “too much trouble, CPS should take him.” To justify her actions, she told a CFS social worker that she couldn't handle her son's behavioral issues. She said he was a “habitual liar” and had been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder by Loma Linda University Medical Center. CFS later determined that he had never been diagnosed with those disorders. Mother also told CFS her son was “psychotic and should be placed in a mental institution.”

         Mother had been married to the twins' biological father from 2003 until they divorced in 2012. She lived in Ontario, California and father, who was in the Air Force, lived in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife (stepmother), although at the time of the dependency he was deployed to South Korea.

         In its jurisdiction/disposition report, CFS recommended the court sustain the twins' petitions, remove them from mother and place them with father, and dismiss the dependency with family law orders. CFS had experience with mother and the twins from before the abandonment incident and were concerned that mother exaggerated and exacerbated the boy's behavioral issues and promoted discord between the twins. According to the social worker with the most experience with the family, mother treated the boy with loathing and hostility, and constantly compared him to his father. The boy told CFS that mother hit him all the time and he was afraid of her. He had bruises but couldn't say how he had gotten them. An interventionist from South Coast Community Services who had been providing intensive in-home services for the family reported that she was concerned about the twins' welfare in mother's care. She saw bruising on the boy in early October 2017 and he expressed being afraid of mother. At school, the boy displayed above-average cognitive abilities and his teacher had no concerns about his behavior. Her only concern was that he would often arrive to school tired, in dirty clothing. The girl told the social worker that her brother needed to live with father because “my mom wants to get rid of him.”

         About a week after CFS filed the petition, father emailed the social worker to ask that the twins be placed with him and stepmother. The social worker then spoke with stepmother, who said she loved the twins like her own and would be able to care for them.

         The juvenile court held the jurisdiction and disposition hearing on November 20, 2017. Mother and her counsel were present. Father's counsel and stepmother were present, and father appeared telephonically from South Korea. Mother objected to the allegations in the petitions and to the content of CFS's reports, but opted not to testify. She argued the children were not safe with father and urged the court to let them stay with the maternal grandparents (where they had been placed since detention) so she could work on her issues and reunify with them. Counsel for father, the twins, and CFS all argued placement with father was in the twins' best interests.

         The court sustained the allegations in the petitions, removed the twins from mother, and granted father sole legal and physical custody.[2] The court granted mother supervised visits every other weekend and twice weekly supervised telephone calls. The court indicated on the family law order that supervision was required for mother because she had not completed a parenting course, individual counseling, or child abuse prevention training. It then dismissed the dependencies and referred future proceedings to family court. At no point during the hearing did the court advise mother that she had the right to appeal the findings and orders it had made.

         B. Post-dependency Matters and ...

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