In re Liam L.Annotate this Case
Christine L. appealed a placement order in the juvenile dependency case of her minor children Liam L., M.L., and Angel L. The order placed the minors with their presumed father and noncustodial parent, J.L. Christine argued the evidence did not support the juvenile court's finding that the minors' placement with J.L. would not be detrimental under Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.2, subdivision (a). By its terms, and under the California Supreme Court's decision in "In re Zacharia D."(6 Cal.4th 435, (1993)), that statute applied only when the minor was first removed from the custodial parent, generally at the time of the disposition hearing. "Under the current statutory scheme, a noncustodial parent who requests placement or custody for the first time after disposition must file a modification petition under section 388 to make such a request. [. . .] given the underlying presumption in California's dependency scheme that a minor should be placed with a noncustodial parent, absent a finding of detriment, such a placement is inherently in the minors' best interests. A noncustodial parent under these circumstances who files a section 388 petition is therefore entitled to custody unless the party opposing placement establishes that placement with the noncustodial parent would be detrimental to the minors' safety, protection or physical or emotional well-being." The Court of Appeal concluded that J.L.'s failure to file a section 388 petition was harmless because the issue of placement with J.L. was before the court with the consent of all parties. The Court further concluded that the juvenile court's finding that the minors' placement with J.L. would not be detrimental was supported by substantial evidence. The Court therefore affirmed the juvenile court's placement order.