Juvenile Dependency like LPS Conservatorship operates within a closed system. The case in re C.M. 2019 Ca.App. 5th 2019, addresses this issue of dependency being a closed system and distinct from the family court system and its statutes. The C.M. court noted first and foremost that
Although both juvenile and family courts have authority to make orders regarding custody and visitation, the two courts operate under separate statutory schemes and serve distinct purposes.
The father who raised this issue on appeal contended that the provisions under Family Code § 3044 took precedence over the exit orders made by the juvenile court. However, father’s assertions are incorrect as he did not take into consideration the fact that juvenile court is a closed “universe” with its own set of legal authority.
Generally family code exists for families deemed fit and juvenile dependency and the corresponding Welf & I C are codified for families that are not able to safely parent their children. Generally, dependency orders supersede family orders. When dealing with dependency cases, counsel needs to look at the Welf & I C and then if the Welf & I C redirects them to the family code then counsel may rely on the family code.
Family code and dependency have differing standards. Dependency under the juvenile court is charged with the protection of children and in rendering its judgements it defers to the authority set by Welfare and Institutions Code, the totality of the circumstances, and the child's best interest standard.
Family code is similar in that it:
“Govern[s] various considerations that impact custody decisions under the best interests of the child standard, including whether any protective or restraining orders are in effect, or whether there have been findings that domestic violence has occurred, in which case “special considerations come into play under the Family Code”.
“And only within specified proceedings, including: proceedings for dissolution or nullity of marriage; proceedings for legal separation; actions by a spouse under Family Code section 3120 for exclusive custody of the children of a marriage”
However, Father incorrectly applied the second half to his dependency exit orders. He asserts that § 3044 exists for the protection and best interest of the child. Although the best interest of the child exists in the code, father negated the fact that the best interest of the child standard differs.
Again the Welf & I C § 300 et seq best interest standard was codified for children who have been at risk or subject to abuse or neglect whereas the best interest standard set forth in the family code law refers to custody and marriage disputes between fit parents. Additionally, the appellate court noted that the juvenile court, designed to be intimately involved in the protection of the child, is best situated to make custody determinations based on the best interests of the child. Because family court is not regularly working within the provisions of Welf & I C they are not as familiar with at risk children and are rendered ineffective at producing judgements that are in the best interest of a abused/neglected child.
Because father failed to appreciate this small but vital difference, the court of appeal affirmed the judgement of the trial court.
38 Cal.App.5th 101
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5, California.
IN RE C.M., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Plaintiff and Respondent,
C.E., Defendant and Appellant.
Filed 07/31/2019Certified for Partial Publication.*
Background: In dependency case, the Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. DK22753A, Martha A. Matthews, J., entered order providing for father and mother to share joint legal custody of child. Father appealed.
Holding: The Court of Appeal, Moor, J., held that as a matter of apparent first impression, Family Code's rebuttable presumption against awarding sole or joint custody of a child to certain perpetrators of domestic violence does not apply in dependency proceedings.
Juvenile Dependency and