Jasmine M was 16 years old when she gave birth to her son JT. JT's
father, Aaron S, was serving time in prison for robbery. At the time,
Jasmine was a dependent of the juvenile court system, and JT become a
During the first year of JT's life, Jasmine would leave JT with her
mother for long periods of time without telling anyone where she was.
Jasmine also prevented the Los Angeles County Department of Children and
Family Services (DCFS) from checking on JT, as ordered by the juvenile
court. JT was subsequently placed in JT's paternal grandmother's
care (Aaron's mother). He lived there for two years, from ages one
to three. Jasmine was allowed visitation rights, but she was inconsistent
in exercising them.
At age three, JT was returned to his mother's custody (with continued
monitoring by DCFS) and visitation rights were ordered to his grandmother.
When JT turned four, Jasmine returned to juvenile court and requested the
court terminate JT's grandmother's visitation rights. Jasmine
did not like the grandmother, and believed the grandmother was saying
bad things about her to JT. DCFS recommended the court deny Jasmine's
request. There was no indication the grandmother was saying anything bad
about JT's mother to him, and JT continued to thrive with these visitations.
Further, the bond between JT and his grandmother was deep, and it was
in his best interests to continue them. Jasmine also argued that to allow
JT's grandmother visitation, violated Jasmine's constitutional
right to parent her child as she wanted. Further, Jasmine argued, that
juvenile court under California's Welfare and Institutions Codes was
not the appropriate court for JT's grandmother to be awarded visitation.
The appropriate court was the family court under California's family
codes. If JT's grandmother wanted visitation rights, she should request
them in superior court through the appropriate family code sections. The
juvenile court disagreed with Jasmine, and she appealed. The Appellate
Court agreed with the juvenile court.
Although the usual procedures for handling child custody and visitation
matters in California are through the family code provisions, the Welfare
and Institutions code sections allow the juvenile courts to control these
matters in dependency proceedings – even final dependency proceedings.
Further, Jasmine's constitutional rights were not violated. The U.S.
Supreme Court held that unless a parent was inadequately caring for a
child, government should not intervene. But Jasmine was in the dependency
court because she was NOT properly caring for her child. It was the juvenile
court's duty to issue final custody and visitation orders regarding