A recent decision from the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Diego, In re I.A., et al, affirmed a trial court decision to remove two children from their home after the children allegedly witnessed one or more incidents of domestic violence between their parents involving weapons. The mother had appealed the trial court's order, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence.
The case began with a petition by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency on behalf of two children, identified as 4 year-old I.A. and 2 year-old N.A. The petition alleged that the children were at "substantial risk of serious physical harm" due to domestic violence between their parents, identified as M.G., their mother, and Ivan A., their father. The parents were apparently divorced but living together for financial reasons. The Agency alleged that the parents had an argument in the presence of the children in which Ivan threatened to hurt M.G., after which M.G. used a cup to hit Ivan on the head, making his nose bleed, and cut him on the arm and chest with a box cutter. Police arrested M.G. and charged her with assault with a deadly weapon, but Ivan declined to request a protective order and helped pay her bail.
The Agency took the children to a children's center and later placed them with nonrelative extended family. I.A., the older of the two children, told the social worker assigned to the case that he had witnessed arguments and incidents of violence between his parents, including attempts by Ivan to choke M.G., but he denied seeing the box cutter attack. While the parents' accounts of the fight conflicted in many ways, the main aggressor was found to the the mother, M.G. She reportedly expressed remorse and agreed to work services that would reunite her with the children.
After a hearing that included testimony from social workers and child care workers assigned to the case and who had worked with the parents and the children, the court concluded that domestic violence had occurred. It ordered the children placed with the nonrelative extended family member and ordered the parents to engage in reunification services. M.G. appealed, contending that the evidence did not support the court's findings of domestic violence or risk to the children.
The Court of Appeals found that the evidence of past domestic violence, as well as the parents’ admissions that the children witnessed some portion of it, supported the trial court’s order. The Court also disputed the mother’s assertion that she had addressed many of the domestic violence issues by the time of the trial court hearing, finding instead that the evidence showed she continued to minimize the risk posed to the children. The Court also found that the risk to the children merited the trial court’s involvement, and that removal of the children from the home was an appropriate disposition under the circumstances. The parents may still be reunited with the children, but they must first participate in services with the Agency to address the domestic violence issues. During this time, they may engage in regular visitation with the children.
More Blog Posts:
California Woman Ordered to Pay Spousal Support to Abusive Ex, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, November 17, 2011
Child Custody Law and Spanking Your Child, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, November 7, 2011
Preventing Domestic Violence in San Diego, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, October 20, 2011