FVAP Juvenile Dependency Case Law
Below is a list of FVAP’s published cases regarding juvenile dependency. These cases are binding legal precedent in all trial courts in California, and can be used to support domestic violence-related cases in trial court. Please note: This list is not comprehensive. Rather, it is a list of FVAP’s juvenile dependency-related published cases since 2012.
Laws often change. Reviewing this list is not a suitable substitute for legal research specific to your case. Additional legal research should be done before citing any case law in trial court. While a decision below may be used to support your (or your client’s) case in court, it may not be the best decision to use in your particular case, and/or there may be additional cases that you should cite. This list does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and FVAP.
To read a decision, click on the case name. See our Legal Resource Library for toolkits, tip sheets, court templates, and other resources for survivors.
What juvenile dependency courts should consider when deciding whether a domestic violence survivor can overcome the presumption that continued foster care is in their child’s best interest because the survivors’ reunification services were already ended:
In re J.M. (2020) 50 Cal.App.5th 833. In this case, the juvenile court took custody of a child because of the father’s domestic abuse of the mother. The mother was ordered to participate in domestic violence and other services, and a restraining order was issued to prevent the father from contacting the mother. The mother was slow to complete her services and contacted the father. Her reunification services were terminated, which is the last step before terminating parental rights. This created a presumption that continuing in foster care was in the child’s best interest. The mother later completed all her services, and asked the court to return her child because circumstances had changed. The trial court denied her request. The Court of Appeal overturned that decision, and ordered the child returned to the mother. The Court of Appeal recognized that it is often the case that a victim of domestic violence will not immediately understand they are a victim, the fact that the mother did not immediately break free from the cycle of abuse did not mean it was not currently in the child’s best interest to be returned to his mother. (FVAP obtained publication.)
Juvenile-court-ordered restraining orders:
In re Bruno M., (2018) 28 Cal.App.5th 990. This case establishes that when a child witnesses domestic violence, their mental and emotional peace can be disturbed, which justifies a restraining order under the Welfare and Institutions Code. This case also explains that seeking a juvenile-court-ordered restraining order is appropriate when an abusive parent threatens to take a child from a non-abusive parent. (FVAP obtained publication.)
Failure to protect:
In re Jonathan B. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 115. Generally, the State of California, each county’s child welfare services department can petition a juvenile dependency court to establish dependency jurisdiction over a child whom a parent who has “failed to protect,” from, among other things, the effects of domestic violence. In this case, a dependency (abuse or neglect) action was filed for the survivor’s “failure to protect” her children from the effects of domestic violence. The Court of Appeal reversed the finding that a mother had failed to protect her children from the father’s domestic violence, because his violence was not foreseeable and the mother had immediately reported the abuse to the police. (FVAP obtained publication)
Addressing “failure to protect” charges:
In re M.W. (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 1444. The Court of Appeal ruled that, if a non-abusive parent declines a restraining order, they should not be charged with “failure to protect” their child from the abusive parent. In this case, the mother was charged with “failure to protect” her children from their abusive father just because she declined a protective order 7 years earlier. The decision notes that obtaining an emergency protective order is “an advisable but not mandatory course of action.” (FVAP obtained publication)