modified to reflect the broader principles in In re B.G. and,
additionally, these principles should apply to all hearings, including
the initial hearing.
Currently, de facto parents in California have no right to
appear with counsel at the initial hearing or adjudication hearing, no
right to challenge the veracity of the State’s petition, no right to
reunification services, no right to custody, and no right to visitation
with the child.101 This limitation is true even in cases in which the
natural parents never appeared, and “the court was placed in the
position of simply rubber-stamping the social worker’s factual
assertions and recommendations.”102 California’s de facto parent
doctrine, therefore, provides insufficient protection for the rights and
relationship of the psychological parent and child.
More can be done to protect the relationship of the
psychological parent and child in dependency proceedings. If there is
no legal parent present in the child’s life when the state intervenes to
remove a child from the psychological parent’s home and
dependency proceedings are initiated, the psychological parent
should be recognized as a de facto parent from the onset of the case.
A psychological parent who has assumed primary caretaking
responsibilities for a child over a significant period of time should
have the same rights and protections that a de facto parent is afforded
in dependency proceedings.
In other words, if the psychological parent would otherwise
qualify as a de facto parent under the law, but for the stage of the
proceedings, the court should recognize the psychological parent as a
de facto parent. This status would be solely for the purposes of the
dependency proceedings and would eliminate dependency law’s
unequal treatment of otherwise similarly situated caretakers.
Moreover, it would be a natural extension of existing case law and,
and therefore lack standing to challenge the denial of reunification services or
contest the reasonableness of services that are offered).
101 See In re Damion B., 135 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 747 (stating that de facto parents did
not have the right to cross-examine witnesses at 18-month review hearing); In re
B.F., 118 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 565. But see In re Matthew P., 84 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 274
(stating that de facto parents cannot be completely shut out of the proceedings).
102 See In re Rachael C., 1 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 478.