December 16, 2022 By Paul Wallin

In re G.Z.: Lack of Substantial Evidence Can Lead to Dismissal of Your Dependency Petition 


In the case of G.Z., who was the minor child of mother Kimberly, the juvenile court found that G.Z.’s injuries were the result of his mother’s neglectful acts. Kimberly appealed to the California Court of Appeal, which reversed the juvenile court’s finding based on a lack of substantial evidence and directed the juvenile court upon remand to dismiss the petition. If you have been wrongfully accused of child abuse or neglect, you need a skilled defense attorney who has experience in dependency cases. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are up-to-date with current case law and know the best strategies to prevent your loved ones from being taken away. Continue reading to learn how one mother was reunited with her child after a dependency petition against her was dismissed. 

Background 

In June 2020, 10-month-old G.Z. was admitted to the hospital due to two older subdural hematomas (brain bleeds) and one new one. When the mother Kimberly could not explain the cause of the hematomas, a staff member suspected abuse and contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). A social worker met with Kimberly and G.Z., and Kimberly explained that the hematomas were likely caused by a co-sleeping incident that led to G.Z. falling off the bed. The social worker noted no other signs that G.Z. was being abused, and all family members corroborated Kimberly’s story in their interviews, giving no indications that she was an unfit mother. 

Dependency Proceedings 

DCFS moved G.Z. to his father’s care and sought a removal order against Kimberly, which was granted due to allegations of physical abuse by an unknown perpetrator and general neglect by his mother. A few days later, DCFS filed a Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 petition, alleging neglectful acts by Kimberly and failure to obtain timely medical treatment. At the detention hearing, Kimberly denied the allegations against her, but the juvenile court ordered G.Z. to be removed from Kimberly’s care and released to the father instead. 

Several months later, at the jurisdictional and dispositional hearings, a pediatric doctor testified that there was no indication that G.Z. had suffered any sort of abuse or neglect, and that he found no signs of medical neglect by Kimberly. Defense counsel argued that DCFS failed to show that G.Z. suffered or was at risk of suffering harm from Kimberly’s conduct, requesting that the petition against her be dismissed. However, the juvenile court cited Section 355.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, finding true by a preponderance of the evidence that the child would not have suffered injuries except for the unreasonable or neglectful acts by Kimberly. 

Dismissal of Petition 

In response, Kimberly appealed to the California Court of Appeal. She contended firstly that the evidence was insufficient to support the court’s finding that her neglectful acts caused her son’s subdural hematomas. Secondly, she argued that her due process rights were violated when the court relied on Welfare and Institutions Code Section 355.1’s rebuttable presumption in finding neglect when it never notified its intent to do so until all parties had argued and submitted the case. 

The appellate court sided with Kimberly. It agreed that there was no substantial evidence in the record that the subdural hematomas were caused by abuse or neglect by Kimberly. Rather, there were alternative explanations for the hematomas such as G.Z.’s pre-existing medical conditions. It was DCFS’s burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that non-accidental trauma was the cause of injury, and it failed to do so. Additionally, the appellate court agreed that DCFS failed to allege it would rely on Section 355.1 and notify Kimberly of its intent to do so until after all parties had argued and submitted the case. This violated Kimberly’s right to due process and therefore could not be applied. As such, the court dismissed the petition for G.Z. to be removed from Kimberly’s care. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect, your life can be turned upside down. To avoid losing custody of your child you need an experienced child dependency defense team fighting for you.  With 40+ years of experience, Wallin and Klarich have helped hundreds of parents regain custody of their children when they have been taken by social workers.. We understand how frightening and stressful these cases can be, but we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family in your case.  

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find a Wallin and Klarich lawyer available to help you in a  convenient location.  

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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