Friday, February 10, 2006

Case Development: California Court Upholds Constitutionality of Best Interests Test as Sole Criterion for Terminating Guardianships

As discussed in prior Family Law Prof Blog case law developments, many state laws allow courts to deny terminating a minor guardianship and returning the child to the biological parents where such a change would not be in the best interest of the child. The California Court of Appeals has upheld the constitutionality of this standard, citing a number of United State Supreme Court decisions in paternity cases for the principal that parents in these cases have fewer constitutional rights than parents in an intact family. 

In this case, minor's parents had placed their daughter with Aunt and Uncle while they resolved violence and alcohol issues.  Seeking to terminate the guardianship, the parents argued that the law's use of the minor's best interest as the sole criterion for termination of the guardianship violated their constitutional rights as fit parents to have the sole care, custody and control of their child. 

The California Court of Appeals disagreed, upholding the trial court's dismissal of parent's petition to terminate the guardianship.  The court concluded that "Here, although the parents had a biological link to the minor, they relinquished their day-to-day parental relationship with her when mother voluntarily placed the minor with the uncle and aunt because the parents were unable to provide adequate care for her. Then, the parents did not oppose having the uncle and aunt named to be the minor's guardians. Because the parents were no longer participating in the day-to-day parenting of the minor, they were not entitled to the constitutional protection afforded to parents who are acting in that role."

Guardianship of L.V., 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 154 (February 7, 2006)
Opinion available on the web (last visited February 10, 2006)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/02/case_developmen_4.html

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