The Doctrine of Disentitlement

In June of 2015, a baby girl (Baby Girl) was born to M and her live-in boyfriend, CK. At the time of her birth, M tested positive for amphetamine. Sadly, Baby Girl tested positive for amphetamine as well, prompting hospital officials to contact county authorities to protect Baby Girl.

When a social worker from the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) arrived at the hospital, Baby Girl was placed in immediate county custody. Upon learning of CFS’s decision, CK began yelling and threatening the social worker. The hospital contacted the police, and CK left the hospital. Before leaving, he was informed of a detention hearing scheduled for the next day.

At the hearing, Baby Girl was removed from M and CK’s custody and placed in foster care, and CFS recommended that steps toward reunification with Baby Girl and CK be provided. M had other children permanently removed from her care due to drug issues, so the court did not recommend reunification efforts for M regarding Baby Girl.

Attempting reunification services, CFS contacted CK and asked him to provide specific information and submit to drug testing. Not only did CK refuse, but stated that he would not do anything CFS asked him to do. Further, he told CFS not to contact him again. At the time, CK had pending criminal charges for drug abuse. Shortly thereafter, CFS obtained a court order ordering CK to submit to a drug test. He failed to do so on numerous occasions.

In a court hearing in August of 2015, to determine Baby Girl’s status, the court determined that M was not entitled to reunification services, but CK was, if he submitted to the reunification program and be examined for drug abuse. The court also determined that CK was the presumed father of Baby Girl. Neither CK nor M was present at the hearing.

Later, CK filed his own motion in court declaring that he should have automatically have custody of Baby Girl as the presumed father, and that CFS had no proof that he was abusing drugs.

The court found for CFS stating that by not following the court’s order, CK was not entitled to raise the issue of whether he was abusing drugs. Under the doctrine of disentitlement, a court may dismiss the appeal of the requestor for failing to obey the court’s own orders.

CK appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the lower court stating, “[CK’s] conduct frustrated, if not paralyzed, the ability of CFS, the court, and his own attorney to obtain the information necessary to determine whether he is an offending parent, and what services, if any, are necessary to enable him to reunify with his daughter… Under these circumstances, there is an adequate basis for determining that [CK’s] conduct was sufficiently [outrageously horrible] to warrant the application of the doctrine of disentitlement and dismiss[al of his] Appeal.”

In other words, the court stated that before someone can request the court’s help, he/she must show his/her attempts to follow the rules in the first place.

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