intervene and remove a child from his or her home, the psychological
parent should be treated like a de facto parent from the onset. An
analysis of California’s de facto parent doctrine shows that this
extension of rights to psychological parents is a natural one,
consistent with the policy that first led to California’s development
of the doctrine.
V. The Judicial Creation of the De Facto Parent Doctrine in
California is a Partial Solution
The interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of
their children is one of the oldest fundamental liberty interests
recognized by the United States Supreme Court.85 Parents have a
basic, presumptive right to the care and custody of their child,86 and
this right should only be disturbed in extreme cases where the person
acts incompatibly with parenthood.87 In California, when
dependency proceedings are initiated, seven essential statutory rights
protect the parent or legal guardian’s right to the care, custody, and
control of the child. Only mothers, presumed fathers, adoptive
parents, and legal guardians are entitled to these rights under
California dependency law.88 Yet, children in California are not
always raised by their mothers, presumed fathers, adoptive parents,
or legal guardians. Sometimes, a non-parent caretaker who is a
psychological parent to the child raises him or her. California has
85 Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000).
86 See In re Kieshia E., 859 P.2d at 1300-11.(citing Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S.
645, 651 (1972); Lassiter v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of Durham Cnty., N.C., 452 U.S.
18, 27 (1981)).
87 See GARY C. SEISER & HON. KURT KUMLI, SEISER & KUMLI ON CAL. JUV.
COURTS PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 2.60(1) (2012) (citing In re B.G., 523 P.2d
244 (Cal. 1974)).
88 Cf. In re Merrick V., 19 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 500 (noting that legal guardians
appointed through the probate court under the California Probate Code generally
have the same rights as a parent in such proceedings); In re Carrie W., 2 Cal. Rptr.
3d at 47); In re Emily R., 96 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 292; In re Zacharia D., 862 P.2d at
760; In re Sarah C., 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 420.