Parental Benefit Exception California

In In re S.B. (2008) 164 Cal.App.4th 289, the Court of Appeal reversed an order terminating parental rights, concluding the juvenile court erred in not applying the parental benefit exception. (Id. at pp. 292-293.) The father had complied with every aspect of his case plan, which included maintaining sobriety and regularly visiting the child. (Id. at p. 293.) However, the father's poor physical and emotional health, caused by years of combat service in Vietnam, impeded his ability to care for the child full time and impaired his efforts to reunify. (Id. at p. 294.) The social worker testified the child would suffer detriment from terminating parental rights, but that detriment would be outweighed by the benefits of adoption. (Id. at p. 295.) The father had been the child's primary caregiver for three years. (Id. at p. 298.) a bonding study described the bond between the father and the child as "'fairly strong'" or "'moderate.'" (Id. at p. 295.) An expert witness testified the relationship between the father and the child "vacillated between parental and peer-like," and there was potential harm to the child in losing the parent-child relationship. (Id. at p. 296.) The Court of Appeal rejected the argument the parental benefit exception does not apply unless the child has a "'primary attachment'" to the parent or the parent and child have day-to-day contact. (In re S.B., supra, 164 Cal.App.4th at p. 299.) The court too was "troubled" by an argument that any detriment to the child from the loss of the parent-child relationship would be "ameliorated by time and the child's strong relationship with her grandmother," the prospective adoptive parent. (Ibid.) The fact a child has a strong and positive relationship with a caregiver does not "negate" the harm the child would suffer from loss of the parent-child relationship. (Id. at p. 300.)