Wednesday, August 06, 2014

In Re A.L. (Cal. Ct. App. - July 23, 2014)

This opinion sounds like the plot of a soap opera:

"The parents . . . began dating around 1999 following Jennifer’s divorce from her first husband who supplied her with drugs. Jennifer was convicted of prostitution in 2006 and theft in 2007, and Richard was convicted for failure to appear on a written promise in 2002.

The parents married in 2008 and have four children together. The oldest, A.L., was born in June 2002. A son, I.L., followed in May 2004. E.L. was born next in July 2005. Their fourth child, O.L., was born in July 2008. 

[] The parents have a lengthy history of drug abuse. Jennifer began using methamphetamine when she was 15. She continued abusing the drug for approximately 15 years, and evidence in the record suggests she used drugs while pregnant with I.L. After achieving what turned out to be temporary sobriety around the age of 30, she relapsed in 2011, a year before filing the petition to terminate the guardianship. Richard also began using methamphetamine as a teen. He abused the drug for over 20 years, from the age of 16 until approximately the age of 40 when he enlisted in the Army in 2007.

Child Protective Services (CPS) received at least 11 referrals regarding the parents, four of which were substantiated for an absent or incapacitated caretaker, substantial risk or general neglect. To avoid having A.L. and I.L. removed by CPS in August 2004, Richard asked his stepsister, Shannon, to care for the children. Shannon lived with her minor children in a house on the property of Richard, Sr., Richard’s father and her stepfather. In early 2005, A.L. returned to live with the parents but I.L. remained with Shannon. In January 2006, Richard asked Shannon to care for A.L. and also for E.L., who had since been born. Because she was already caring for her own children and I.L., Shannon declined. Richard and Jennifer then approached Marjorie, Richard’s mother, for help with the minors since Richard had lost his job and they were losing their home. . . .

Beginning in January 2008, A.L. moved to Kentucky where Richard was stationed in the Army to live with the parents. Because Jennifer was pregnant with O.L. at the time, the guardian and the parents agreed E.L. would stay with her until O.L.’s birth. O.L. was born with severe health issues so the guardian and the parents agreed E.L. would remain in California with her until his health issues improved. E.L. eventually moved to Kentucky with her parents around August 2009. Richard was then transferred to Virginia and the parents, the minors, and O.L. relocated; I.L. remained in California with Richard, Sr., and Shannon, and did not join the rest of the family in Virginia until approximately January 2010.

In February 2010, Richard was deployed to Afghanistan. During his year-long deployment, Jennifer and the children moved into a house on Richard, Sr.,’s property in California. While the parents maintain that Jennifer cared for the children during this time, Shannon claims she was the children’s primary care-giver between February 2010 and March 2011 because Jennifer was abusing prescription and illegal drugs and had difficulty caring for the children. 

Richard returned from Afghanistan in late February 2011. Upon his return, he discovered Jennifer had been having a sexual relationship with an ex-boyfriend who was a drug dealer. The parents got into a domestic dispute over the affair and Jennifer assaulted Richard. Jennifer also inexplicably injured her foot that same day, although the parents deny the injury was related to domestic abuse. The next day, Richard’s stepmother reported the incident to police, and Jennifer was arrested for domestic violence. Jennifer was jailed for a few days, but the charges ultimately were dismissed. . . .

Several months later, Jennifer and Richard reconciled."

The only things missing entail twin sisters and a fake deaths.