Father’s Decision-Making Power Over Daughter’s Healthcare Reinstated

In this case, the Second District affirmed a Los Angeles County juvenile court judge’s order terminating jurisdiction over the child, but vacated its orders purporting to modify that judgment.

“Welfare and Institutions Code section 362.4 authorizes the juvenile court, when terminating jurisdiction over a dependent child, to issue a custody and visitation order that will become part of the parents’ family law file and remain in effect in the family law action ‘until modified or terminated by a subsequent order.’ Section 302, subdivision (d), reinforces the post-termination significance of the juvenile court’s section 362.4 custody orders by providing that those orders (commonly referred to as ‘exit orders’) may not be modified by the family court ‘unless the court finds that there has been a significant change of circumstances since the juvenile court issued the order and modification of the order is in the best interests of the child.’ Here, the dependency petition was filed, and the juvenile court assumed jurisdiction, after the family court had entered a final judgment awarding Todd T. sole legal authority to make healthcare decisions for his daughter, Anna T. When the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction a year later, it expressly declined to issue a juvenile court custody order pursuant to section 362.4, 'revert[ing] back to the original family law decision.’”

“Nonetheless, the court ordered Anna to continue in treatment with a therapist selected by Anna’s mother, Nancy D., to be paid by Todd, until that therapist determined a change would not interfere with Anna’s treatment. The court also prohibited Todd from returning Anna to two healthcare providers (a pediatrician and a therapist) who had previously seen her. Todd appeals the healthcare orders, arguing the juvenile court improperly delegated to the therapist the decision of how long Anna would continue in treatment with her at his expense and abused its discretion by basing the order precluding him from taking Anna to her former pediatrician and therapist on mistaken factual assumptions. We do not reach those issues. The challenged orders, not having been made as part of a juvenile court custody order pursuant to section 362.4, had no continuing effect after the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction. Accordingly, those orders are vacated. Any ongoing issues regarding Todd’s authority to make healthcare decisions regarding Anna are properly addressed to the family court.”

Click to read the court’s full opinion.

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