IN RE A.M.

No. A149871.

In re A.M., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. CONTRA COSTA COUNTY CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES BUREAU, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. A.R., Defendant and Appellant.

Court of Appeals of California, First District, Division Three.


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.115

POLLAK, J.

Mother appeals juvenile court orders vacating these dependency proceedings involving her now 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old twin sons and granting father sole physical and legal custody of the children. She contends the court abused its discretion in finding that father successfully completed his case plan and in rejecting her request for shared custody. We find no abuse of discretion and shall affirm the court's orders.

Factual and Procedural History

In March 2015, the children were removed from their father's home following a domestic violence incident involving father and his girlfriend. Mother did not reside with father at the time and was not involved in the incident.

In April 2015, the Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Bureau (the bureau) filed a juvenile dependency petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code1 section 300 alleging the children were at substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm or illness due to father's domestic violence with the girlfriend and because of mother's significant history of mental health and anger management problems. At the contested jurisdiction hearing, father submitted to the court's jurisdiction and the court sustained the allegations of the petition regarding mother.

In September 2015, the court removed the children from their parent's custody, placed them with their paternal great aunt, and ordered family reunifications services to the parents.

In a prior opinion, this court upheld the trial court's jurisdiction and disposition orders. (In re A.M. (A146350, July 25, 2016) [nonpub. opn.].) We found that there was substantial evidence to support the court's finding that the children came within the meaning of section 300, subdivision (b) based on the substantial risk that the children will suffer serious physical harm or illness as a result of mother's substance abuse. We found substantial evidence in the record "that mother drinks heavily, sleeps until the afternoon when her children are visiting, yells constantly at the children and other family members, sometimes for no reason, `acts really crazy,' and that her behavior scares the children. She also has a criminal history that includes both alcohol and violence related offenses." We also cited evidence in the record that established "a causal link between mother's alcohol abuse and the substantial risk of physical harm to the children," explaining that "[m]other has a lengthy history with the bureau that has, at times, required supervised visitation and daughter's testimony confirms that mother's current behavior continues to put the children at risk of serious physical injury. Daughter's testimony, which the court found credible, establishes that mother yells at them for no reason and hits the children, and that the children are afraid of being alone with her." We observed that "[d]aughter's testimony paints a bleak picture that involves both emotional and physical abuse and amply supports jurisdiction in this case." Finally, we concluded that the evidence of physical and emotional abuse detailed above also supported the court's dispositional order.

At the six-month review hearing, the court ordered the children returned to their father's care with family maintenance services and provided for weekend visitation for mother. The social worker reported that the bureau was satisfied with father's progress in services and reported that while mother made partial progress on her case plan, concerns remained regarding mother's interactions with both her daughter and the bureau.

On September 15, 2016, the court suspended overnight and unsupervised visitation with mother based on the social worker's report that mother had missed numerous drug tests, and was possibly drinking in the children's presence.

On September 30, 2016, the bureau filed petitions under section 388 seeking to have jurisdiction over the children dismissed, with sole legal and physical custody of the children awarded to father. The petition alleged that the "father has completed his case plan and the mother is no longer in compliance with her case plan" and that it is in the best interests of the children "to have final custody orders established to prevent ongoing uncertainty" for the children.

On November 15, 2016, following a contested hearing, the court granted the bureau's petition and dismissed jurisdiction over the children. The court issued final custody orders granting father physical and legal custody of the three children. The court limited mother to professionally supervised visits, explaining that "although mother attended parenting classes and individual therapy, she did not benefit from these services and continued to lie to social services and manipulate situations, which resulted in continued detriment to the children."

Mother timely filed notices of appeal.

Discussion

After a child has been declared a dependent of the juvenile court, a social services agency may petition the juvenile court to terminate dependency jurisdiction. (§ 388, subd. (a); Kimberly R. v. Superior Court (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 1067, 1075.) "The juvenile court must conduct a hearing on the petition if it appears that the best interests of the child may be promoted by terminating jurisdiction. [Citations.] Once that prima facie showing has been made and a hearing is held, the court may dismiss the dependency petition if the court finds that `the interests of justice and the welfare of the minor require the dismissal, and that the parent or guardian of the minor is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation.'" (In re Y.M. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 892, 912.)

At the hearing on the bureau's petition, the social worker testified that father had complied with his case plan. He had completed 15 sessions of parenting education class, produced a certificate from a program addressing domestic violence, and maintained regular contact with the social worker. Although father had missed a few tests, overall, he was drug testing regularly and producing clean results and the social worker was satisfied with his compliance.

The social worker also testified that mother was not in compliance with her case plan. She agreed that mother's behaviors could be described as "obsessive, demanding, controlling, overwhelming and manipulative" and testified to several different incidents where the mother was not forthcoming and appeared to be untruthful. She also reported that mother had missed several drug tests throughout the reporting period.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that the circumstances had changed and that father was "ready to take the children and provide them a safe and secure home and the stability they need." The court agreed that mother uses "manipulation a lot" and that she "has a tendency to blame everybody for things that have or haven't occurred." The court also noted that some of the concerns mother had raised about father's parenting had been contradicted by neutral witnesses that "spend time with these kids."

On appeal, mother challenges the court's finding that the circumstances had changed and that termination of dependency jurisdiction was in the children's best interests. Mother argues that "[w]hile father demonstrated some important progress, there remained a number of concerning issues regarding his ability to properly care for the children and his willingness to abide by court orders." She faults father for delay in obtaining eyeglasses for one of her sons, leaving the children with their aunt while he was working in San Francisco, and delay in setting up therapy appointments after moving to San Francisco. She also faults the bureau for failing to "follow up on key issues relating to the care of the children, or overlooked failures on father's part to abide by the case plan." Perfection, however, is not required and mother's "concerns" are not sufficient to rebut the otherwise substantial evidence that father had completed his case plan and was no longer in need of treatment or services under the supervision of the court.

Mother also argues that awarding full legal and physical custody to father was not in the children's best interests. She notes that while she "knows that she is not entitled to half custody as a matter of right, the totality of the circumstances in this case show that such shared custody would be in the children's best interest." The social worker gave sound reasons for recommending sole custody to father. She explained, "It's definitely not a decision that was come by easy . . . [b]ut in the roughly four months that I have been working on this case, it has been very difficult to work with mother in terms of . . . trying to set parameters in place even around . . . the visits, around what she can and can't do in terms of going to school or contacting the school, and I feel like she has continuously pushed those boundaries. And I worry that without our oversight how that looks for father in terms of her . . . being able to kind of manipulate and talk her way into things that might or might not be true." She believed the father was able to advocate for his children's education and health needs. In contrast, she believed that while mother's intentions "might be good," the way she advocates for the children "is really over the top. . . . [I]t's sometimes hard to discern . . . what is a true emergency because everything is an emergency, it seems, in her view. And it makes it difficult also to . . . know what is true or what is an exaggeration." The court clearly agreed that mother's behavior had been manipulative and untruthful throughout the proceedings and that awarding father sole custody would provide the children with the stability they needed. The court did not abuse its discretion in ordering sole custody to father.

Disposition

The juvenile court orders are affirmed.

McGuiness, P.J. and Jenkins, J., concurs.

FootNotes


1. All statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Comment

1000 Characters Remaining

Leagle.com reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

User Comments

Listed below are the cases that are cited in this Featured Case. Click the citation to see the full text of the cited case. Citations are also linked in the body of the Featured Case.

Cited Cases

  • No Cases Found

Listed below are those cases in which this Featured Case is cited. Click on the case name to see the full text of the citing case.

Citing Cases