SUZANNE v. ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY

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Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California.

SUZANNE J., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Orange County, Respondent; ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY et al., Real Parties in Interest.

No. G018907.

Decided: March 25, 1996

Ronald Y. Butler, Public Defender, Carl C. Holmes, Chief Deputy Public Defender, Marri B. Derby, Victoria A. Hill, Paul T. DeQuattro and Lee I. Blumen, Deputy Public Defenders, for Petitioner. Laurence M. Watson, Chief Assistant County Counsel, and Margaret Eastman, Deputy County Counsel, for Real Party in Interest Orange County Social Services Agency. Harold LaFlamme, Santa Ana, and Craig E. Arthur, Newport Beach, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for the Minors.

OPINION

This petition concerns eight-year old Allen, six-year old Kyle, and four-year old Amanda S., who were declared dependent minors of the juvenile court on August 30, 1994.   At the contested 12–month review hearing on December 5–6, 1995, the court found reasonable reunification services had been provided, ordered them terminated, and scheduled a selection and implementation hearing.   The Public Defender, acting on behalf of the mother, Suzanne J., filed this petition for extraordinary writ relief challenging the order setting the selection and implementation hearing and barring any visitation between Suzanne and the minors pending the hearing.  (See Welf. & Inst.Code, § 366.26, subd. (l ).)

The social services agency argues we should dismiss the petition because Suzanne did not sign the petition and there is no evidence she consented to its filing or continues to assert parental rights to the minors.  (See Guillermo G. v. Superior Court (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1168, 1174, 39 Cal.Rptr.2d 748.)   Here, trial counsel signed the notice of intent and listed Suzanne's address as “unknown.”   Trial counsel also signed the writ petition and the verification, stating that Suzanne “is not available to verify the Petition.”   After counsel for the agency pointed out there was no evidence Suzanne actually consented to the filing of the petition, Suzanne's attorney submitted a declaration in which she said she met with the mother shortly after the 12–month review hearing and the mother told her she wanted the attorney to file the petition.

The attorney's declaration is insufficient to show Suzanne's actual consent to the taking of this petition.   Suzanne was given notice that her consent was an issue which had to be addressed before the petition could be considered on its merits.   Despite this notice, Suzanne failed to submit any evidence of her consent, such as an amended verification or a declaration signed by her, and voluntarily chose to make herself unavailable for several months now at this important point in the proceedings.   Suzanne's choice, although unfortunate, is not surprising.   As the record shows, she often disappeared from her children's lives for substantial periods of time.   Indeed, the minors were declared dependent children of the juvenile court after Suzanne took them to a caretaker and did not return for them, and reunification services were terminated, in part, because she did not comply with her service plan and had, as the court noted, “been absent for months.”

The dependency scheme is designed to aid those parents who seriously want to maintain a healthy relationship with their children.   Requiring parents to make the minimal effort needed to meet with their court-appointed attorney to sign a petition, a verification, or a declaration, either at the time the petition is filed or within a short period of time thereafter, is a rather insignificant burden in the scheme of things.

The petition for writ of mandate is dismissed.

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