Petition to Modify a Juvenile Court Order in California

A petition to modify a juvenile court order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 must allege facts showing that new evidence or changed circumstances exist, and that changing the order will serve the child's best interests. (In re Daijah T. (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 666, 672.) The petitioner has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 5.570(h)(1)(D).) In assessing the petition, the court may consider the entire history of the case. (In re Justice P. (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 181, 189.) The Court reviews the denial of a section 388 petition after an evidentiary hearing for abuse of discretion. (In re S.R. (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 864, 866.) Where there is conflicting evidence, the Court reverses only if the evidence compels a finding for the appellant as a matter of law. (In re I.W. (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 1517, 1527-1529.) The best interests of the child are of paramount consideration when a modification petition is brought after termination of reunification services. (In re Stephanie M. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 295, 317.) In assessing the best interests of the child at this juncture, the juvenile court looks not to the parent's interests in reunification but to the needs of the child for permanence and stability. (In re Marilyn H. (1993) 5 Cal.4th 295, 309.) "A petition which alleges merely changing circumstances and would mean delaying the selection of a permanent home for a child to see if a parent, who has repeatedly failed to reunify with the child, might be able to reunify at some future point, does not promote stability for the child or the child's best interests." (In re Casey D. (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 38, 47.) "When a child has been placed in foster care because of parental neglect or incapacity, after an extended period of foster care, it is within the court's discretion to decide that a child's interest in stability has come to outweigh the natural parent's interest in the care, custody and companionship of the child." (In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 419.) The "'escape mechanism'" provided by section 388 after reunification efforts have ceased is only available when a parent has completed a reformation before parental rights have been terminated. (In re Kimberly F. (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 519, 528.) This is because, if a parent's circumstances have not changed sufficiently to permit placement of the child with that parent, reopening reunification "does not promote stability for the child or the child's best interests" when the child is otherwise adoptable. (In re Casey D., supra, 70 Cal.App.4th at p. 47.)