Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal has declared that a judge went out of bounds in ordering that a mentally impaired 33-year-old woman who accused her father of raping her must participate in joint counseling sessions with him, over the objection of her mother, her conservator.
Justice Marsha G. Slough wrote the opinion, filed Dec. 4 and, as modified, certified for publication on Monday, which reverses an order by Riverside Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Cahraman in a case involving the conservatorship of Anna Navarrete, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has a speech disorder.
The allegation of a rape on May 31, 2016, caused the split-up of the conservative’s parents, Maria Navarrete and Rodolfo Navarrete Sr., and, in part, precipitated a successful July 29, 2016 petition by the mother for her appointment as her daughter’s conservator.
In granting the father’s request for visitation and for an order that his daughter participate in joint counseling sessions with him. Cahraman said:
“So here I am not knowing if he had sex with his daughter, but finding there’s not enough evidence to say that he did. And then if I have the visitation forced, then in case I’m wrong and he did have sex with his daughter, then I’m making her visit with her molester. I don’t like that very much, if that’s what it is. But I don’t think that’s what it is. I think he probably didn’t have sex with his daughter.”
In her opinion reversing the order for joint counseling sessions, Slough noted that Probate Code §2351(b) permits a court to override a conservator’s decision to bar visits by specific persons.
However, the jurist declared:
“The statute does not similarly suggest the court has the power to force an unwanted visitor on the conservatee. We’re not asked to decide whether the court properly could allow the conservator to stop Navarrete from seeing someone who was exercising undue influence on her or engaging in unwanted or unsafe sexual contact. We’re asked to decide whether the trial court’s statutory power to limit Navarrete’s personal rights to receive visitors extends to allowing the court to require a conservatee to receive a visitor she and her conservator insist she does not want to see.
“We are aware of no case reading the statute to allow a conservator or a court to require an adult conservatee to spend time with someone against their will, even a parent.”
Slough went on to say:
“In the context of family law orders, the trial courts have no authority to order adult disabled children to visit with a parent….Navarrete is such a person, notwithstanding her disability, and the trial court’s attempt to intervene in the dispute between a disabled adult and her estranged father based on its own judgment about her best interests overstepped its role.”
The case is Conservatorship of Navarrete, 2020 S.O.S. 6104.
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