Case of Daniel J. — (Superior Court of Los Angeles County)

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APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County


Oscar J. (Father) appeals from the juvenile court orders adjudicating his son, Daniel J. (the child), a dependent pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code [1] section 300, subdivision (b) and removing the child from Father’s custody.  In a cross-appeal, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the department) challenges an order dismissing a domestic violence count from the dependency petition.  We affirm the juvenile court’s orders declaring the child a dependent and removing him from the custody of Father.  We reverse the order dismissing the domestic violence count.

All further statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code unless otherwise indicated.


On September 21, 2012, the department filed the petition on behalf of the four-year-old child.  As sustained, the petition alleged Father is a current abuser of alcohol, which renders him incapable of providing regular care and supervision of the child.  On July 14, 2012 and other occasions, Father was under the influence of alcohol.  The child’s physical health and safety were at risk because of Father’s abuse of alcohol.

The juvenile court struck the following domestic violence allegations.  The child was at risk of physical harm because Father and A.J. (Mother) have a history of engaging in violent altercations in the child’s presence.  On July 14, 2012, Father struck Mother’s face with his fists, causing her to fall backward and become dazed and disoriented.  Father inflicted pain and a bleeding laceration to Mother’s nose.  Father struck Mother’s body on prior occasions.  Mother failed to protect the child by allowing Father to reside in the family home with unlimited access to the child.  On July 14, 2012, Father was arrested for inflicting corporal injury to a spouse cohabitant.  The child’s physical health and safety were endangered by Father’s violent conduct against Mother and Mother’s failure to protect.

The detention report stated a social worker went to the family home on July 16, 2012 after receiving a referral alleging emotional and physical abuse of the child.  The referral alleged that on July 14, 2012, an anonymous call was made to report a possible in progress domestic violence at the family home.  When police officers arrived, the child came out crying.  The child said that Mother “was bleeding and that his daddy had done it.”  Police officers subsequently discovered Mother in a back room crouching in a corner.  Mother had blood on her.  Mother initially claimed the blood was ketchup.  Mother denied she had been punched.  Mother subsequently admitted that she had been punched.  Father was arrested but released the next day after he made bail.

On July 16, 2012, the social worker interviewed Father at home.  Father denied the social worker entry into the home and access to the child.  Father stated “he was not up to it today” and requested that the social worker return the next day.  When the social worker advised Father that the allegations needed to be addressed, Father indicated the social worker should return in an hour when Mother was home.  Father stated he had a bad day at work and was “hanging out” with friends.  The social worker subsequently learned the friends were Father’s adult children, who also resided in the home.

Father said that the incident between him and Mother was “nothing.”  Father denied hitting Mother.  Father explained that he went to a local bar to watch a fight.  However, the bar did not broadcast the fight.  He had a couple of beers and went outside where a woman asked him for a ride.  Father told the woman no.  He later learned that, just about that time, Mother was driving by on her way home from work with the child.  Mother went home, dropped off the child, and returned to the bar.  Mother got into a physical altercation with the woman Father was talking to outside the bar.  The woman gave Mother a bloody nose.  The police arrested Father because they assumed he had hit Mother.

Father had been drinking on the day of the interview.  He explained that he had been drinking because he had a bad day at work and was worried that he might lose his job over the situation.  Father worked for the Los Angeles Police Department as a detention officer.  He also stated he had three metal plates placed in his head about three years before the incident.  Father said that on the day of the incident Mother was upset and told him “she would want to kill him.”  But she could not because of the metal plates and she did not want to harm him.

In Mother’s interview on July 16, 2012, Mother denied any domestic violence between Father and her.  Mother said she lied about the incident.  The woman at the bar hit Mother, giving Mother a bloody nose.  Father did not hit Mother.  Mother was so embarrassed about her own behavior that she allowed the police to think her husband hit her.  She said she was jealous when she drove by the bar and wanted to know if something was going on between her husband and the woman.  Mother said no one else witnessed the incident.  Mother said she did not think things through because she was so angry at Father.

The child did not give the social worker much information.  The child started out by saying Father did not hit Mother.  The child denied seeing anyone hit Mother.  The child stated he saw Mother was bleeding from her nose.  The child denied seeing Father hit Mother.  The child stated that his parents argue, get mad and that Father yells.  The child mentioned something about a couch.  But it was unclear as to what the child was trying to say.

The child’s two adult siblings were aware of the incident.  Both adult siblings were not sure what happened.  The police arrived and told one sibling that Father had been in a scuffle and arrested him.  The adult sibling observed normal fighting between Father and Mother.  The paternal grandmother lived in the house.  She came home and heard Father and Mother arguing in English.  She is Spanish-speaking and did not understand what they were saying.  She did not witness or have knowledge of any sort of domestic violence between Father and Mother.  When interviewed, Paternal Grandmother stated she had no concerns of abuse between Father, Mother or the child.

The police report stated when the child exited the front door he was upset and appeared to have been crying.  The child looked at one officer and said “momma has blood.”  The child then said “daddy did it.”  An officer discovered Mother in a locked room.  Mother had been crying.  An officer observed what appeared to be fresh blood stains on the front of Mother’s blouse.  Mother reported that the stains were ketchup.

Mother subsequently admitted Father struck her in the face.  She told police that when she returned home on the day of the incident she saw several articles of her clothing on the front porch.  When she entered the residence, Father appeared to be angry and agitated.  She believed that, due to past incidents, Father was angry because she was not at the residence when he returned home from work.  Mother asked him why he was upset.  As he advanced toward Mother, Father shouted “don’t f*** with me!”  Mother suddenly felt a powerful blow to the front of her face.  The force of the blow caused Mother to stumble backward and fall on the living room sofa.  Mother said it felt as though her “head exploded.”  Mother was disoriented before feeling blood gushing from her nose.

Mother told police she thought alcohol played a role in the incident.  Mother believed Father had an alcohol abuse problem.  Every time Father became intoxicated, he “gets out of control.”  Mother stated Father became angry and unreasonable.  Father had been verbally abusive to Mother in the past.  But, that was the first time he hit her.  According to Mother, she initially lied to the police because she did not want Father to “get into trouble.”

In an interview with police, the child said “mom had blood coming out” and “daddy hit her.”  The child then closed his right hand, forming a fist and placed his fist on his nose.  Father told police Mother got mad at him for talking to a couple of girls at a bar.

After reviewing the police report, the department referred Father and Mother to counseling.  Father was referred to Alcoholics Anonymous.

On August 9, 2012, the social worker met with Mother.  Mother stated she had attended two individual counseling sessions as well as couples counseling.  Mother stated Father was attending individual counseling and AA meetings.  Mother stated that things were fine at home between Father and her.  There was no other contact with police and Father’s next criminal court date was scheduled for August 14, 2012.

The social worker interviewed the child, who without prompting, said “[D]ad didn’t hit [M]om.”  The child also said he “didn’t see anything.”

On September 6, 2012, the social worker met with Mother, who stated everything was going well.  Mother said she continued to go to therapy.  Mother’s therapist stated she attended only one session and cancelled a second session because of her work schedule.  The social worker could not verify that Father was participating in any services.

On September 12, 2012, Mother and Father were scheduled to attend a meeting to address the department’s concerns about the lack of services.  The meeting was scheduled to accommodate Father’s work schedule.  Mother went alone to the meeting.  She stated Father was not willing to go to the meeting because everything that was going on was too depressing for him.  Mother reported Father was taking Prozac for his depression.  Mother was “worried for her husband.”  She wanted him to get help.  Mother then informed the social worker that there was a restraining order against Father.  Father was staying with different relatives.  Mother was planning to move into the maternal grandmother’s house with the child.  During the meeting, Mother admitted Father struck her on the nose.  Mother also reported that Father drank a lot of alcohol, was aggressive and hit her.

On September 13, 2012, the social worker obtained copies of two permanent restraining orders issued on behalf of Mother protecting her from Father.  The restraining orders were dated August 14, 2012 and September 7, 2012.  Mother denied knowledge that a restraining order had been issued on August 14, 2012.

The department went to serve Father with a warrant to remove the child from his custody.  Father became tearful and stated he wanted to tell his version of what happened.  He showed the social worker various scars on his head.  Father said he suffered from extreme headaches and migraines.  Father was suffering from one of the migraines on the day of the incident.  Mother and the child were not home when Father arrived home after a 12-hour work shift.  Father knew Mother was with relatives and thought she should be home to help him.  After Mother arrived home, the two began to argue.  It escalated to the point where both Father and Mother were using profanity.  Father said he “slapped her.”  Father continued to cry and stated:  “I was wrong.  I take responsibility for my actions.”  He further stated it was the first time and he just made a mistake.  The home was empty without Mother and the child.