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In re A.M. summary: published 7-18-19

 

Snippet: Restraining order properly issued against father where there was a finding he severely sexually abused child.

 

The Second Appellate District of California recently affirmed a Los Angeles Superior Court’s grant of a two-year restraining order prohibiting a father from having any contact with his minor daughter, whom he had sexually abused.

 

On appeal, the father contended that “because the minor has been resilient, she is strong enough to have contact with him,” but the appellate court firmly rejected this argument and kept the restraining order in place.

Factual Background

 

In C.M. v. AL.M., in 2018, the Department of Children and Family Services (“Department”) received a report that the minor daughter was suicidal and had been sexually abused by her father. This report followed several allegations of the father’s sexual abuse of the minor daughter, the earliest of which dated to when she was just under two years old in 2007.

 

The father denied the allegations and claimed his daughter invented them because she didn’t want him to resume a relationship with her mother and was jealous about having a sibling; the parents had been separated for approximately seven years between 2009 and 2016, and they had a son in April 2018.

 

Trial Court’s Decision

 

In May 2018, the mother requested and received a restraining order against the father, and in June 2018, the Department got an order to remove both the minor daughter and son from the father. The minor daughter expressed a desire for no visitation with her father, and the court obliged with a restraining order prohibiting him from having any contact with his minor daughter in any way, including by phone or text, for two years. The father appealed.

 

Decision on Appeal

 

In its opinion affirming the order, the appellate court first noted that “a juvenile court may issue an order enjoining any person from contacting a child if such contact would jeopardize the child’s safety” and that the overarching “purpose of a dependency hearing is to determine the best interests of the child and to protect those interests.”

 

Turning to the father’s argument that his minor daughter was resilient enough to have contact with him, the court cited evidence that the father had “groomed and sexually abused the minor over many years and that the nature of the sexual abuse progressed.” The court concluded that the father didn’t comprehend the damage he had done to his daughter and that there was a “high risk that the grooming would continue if he was given access to her in any fashion.”

 

Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the restraining order.