Trial courts are required to make findings after certain proceedings. So is a court’s failure to make findings reversible error? A few years ago, the California Supreme Court answered No in F.P. v. Monier. Instead, to be reversible, the trial court’s failure to make findings must prejudice the appellant.
But the Fourth District held the opposite in a published opinion in Abdelqader v. Abraham (Mar. 10, 2022 D4d1) --- Cal.Rptr.3d ----. The trial court failed to make required findings, and on that basis, the Court of Appeal reversed. Although the respondent argued the error was harmless, the court disagreed. The court essentially concluded the failure to make findings was a structural defect — the precise argument the Supreme Court rejected in Monier.
Comment: While I strongly agree that litigants deserve reasons for a court’s decision, the court’s analysis in Abdelqader is unsatisfying. The court furnished no basis to distinguish the Supreme Court’s Monier holding. In fact, the court did not even mention Monier.
The Upshot: In any custody matter in which the presumption under Family Code section 3044 is triggered, look hard for any missing findings. Under Abdelqader, that defect is reversible per se.