IN RE VINCENT M., No. H030258.
On April 4, 2008, the Second Appellate District reversed a Findings and Order granting a Petition by a child’s biological father seeking that he was the child’s presumed father stating that:
. . . a biological father seeking reunification with a child, who does not come forward in the dependency proceeding until after the reunification period has ended, must establish under section 388 that there are changed circumstances or new evidence demonstrating the child’s best interest would be promoted by reunification services. The rule is the same whether his paternity was concealed from him or not. (Full text of 04/08/2008 Opinion.)
In re: Vincent M. the child was born in February, 2006 after Petitioner had moved to New York without mother to attempt to gain custody of a child from a previous relationship. Mother had originally told another man that he was the father and had not informed the Petitioner in this case that she was pregnant. At the child’s birth, Mother told the other man that the child had died, surrendered the child to the hospital, and refused to identify the father. The child was placed with prospective adoptive parents and on 03/08/06, the junior court found that the whereabouts of Mother and identity of the Father of the child were unknown, declared the child a court dependent, and moved to the permanency stage of the dependency action.
In September, 2006 a new paternity test revealed that the other man was not the father and Mother contacted the Petitioner to inform him that he was. In October, 2006 Petitioner took a paternity test and was determined to be the biological father of the child. Petitioner then filed his Petition seeking a Declaration that he was the child’s presumed father, and thus entitled to reunification services with the child, despite the time period for such services having expired.
The Second Appellate District found that father did not meet the definition of presumed father status under Civil Code section 7004, subdivision (a) and stated that presumed father status is not related to biology. In discussion of the decision, the court stated,
“For a biological father who does not assert paternity until after the expiration of any reunification period, the ‘only remedy’ is to file a petition to modify under section 388” which requires a showing of new evidence or changed circumstances showing that reunification services or granting custody to the biological parent would be the best interests of the child. As the lower court did not consider the best interests standard, the Findings and Order was reversed and father was directed that he may file another Petition for which the court would have to consider the current status and best interests of the child in making its ruling.
Parents and prospective adoptive parents can find more information about a biological parent’s right to reunification services under California law at adoption.com.