In November of 2014, a social worker with the Los Angeles County Department
of Children and Family Services (DCFS) removed four-year-old HR and his
younger-half-sister JR from their mother’s home alleging a domestic
violence situation caused by Mother’s live-in boyfriend (BF). The
DCFS alleged physical abuse by BF against the mother and children, and
alcohol abuse by Mother. DCFS also accused Mother of leaving the children
home alone without adult supervision. BF admitted that he is JR’s
biological father, but he adamantly denied that he is HR’s biological
father. Mother denied that BF is HR’s biological father, but refused
to tell DCFS who HR’s biological father is. After numerous attempts
by DCFS to determine HR’s paternity, Mother finally admitted his
father was EC. Further, at times she admitted to DCFS of informing EC
that he was HR’s father, and other times she told DCFS she never
informed EC that he was HR’s father, because she was mad at him
for moving out of state.
EC and Mother never lived together, but they had a sexual relationship
during the summer of 2009. According to Mother, she had no other sexual
relationships during that time.
During a juvenile court hearing, the judge ordered DCFS to try and locate
EC. Mother did not know where EC was, but believed he was in Louisiana.
She also thought he had family in Arkansas. Upon further investigation
by the DCFS, EC was found in a federal detention center in Louisiana.
He was in the process of being deported to El Salvador.
Upon hearing California’s DCFS was looking for him regarding HR,
EC contacted DCFS. He advised the social worker that his deportation date
was in January of 2015; and that he did not think he was HR’s biological
father, but that he wanted to be informed of the case’s status.
EC was deported shortly before the next juvenile hearing to determine paternity,
but an attorney was assigned to represent EC in court. Although HR submitted
to a DNA test, EC did not. Therefore, the juvenile court determined EC
to be HR’s alleged father only. His attorney appealed contending
the court erred in not finding him to be HR’s biological father.
If EC was not declared the biological father, he should not be a part
of HR’s dependency case at all.
The appellate court denied EC’s attorney’s request and affirmed
the juvenile court’s determination that EC was the alleged father,
thus making him subjected to HR’s dependency hearing.
A dependency proceeding differentiates between
presumed types of fathers: “…A man who may be the father of a child
but has not established his biological paternity, or achieved
presumed father status, is an
alleged father. A
biological father has established his paternity, but he has not established that
he is the child’s
The appellate court went on to say: “A father’s rights and
the extent to which he may participate in dependency proceedings hinge
on his paternal status. An
alleged father has limited due process and statutory rights. He is not entitled
to [have an attorney appointed for him] or to reunification services…
[He need only] be given notice and an opportunity to appear and assert
a position and attempt to change his paternity status . . . The court
has the discretion to grant reunification services to a
biological father if the court determines that the services will benefit the child…
Presumed father status ranks highest and entitles the father to appointed counsel,
custody (assuming the court has not made a detriment finding).”
In this case, substantial evidence supported the court’s determination
that father was H.R."s
alleged but not his