A bill authored by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo has been signed into law, officials announced on Monday.
The bill, AB 841, passed through the legislature unanimously. It will ensure that in a child welfare proceeding, children cannot be removed from their parents' care solely because the parent did not sue for custody.
"Children should not be taken away from their family solely because the parents lack the resources to hire counsel and sue for custody," Cunningham said. "Our goal must be to keep families together as long as it is safe for the child.
Cunningham emphasized that this bill will help accomplish that goal.
In certain cases, county welfare departments have alleged that a parent not initiating custody litigation constitutes a "failure or inability" or a "willful or negligent failure" to adequately supervise their child.
"With his signature, Gov. Newsom just made it easier for children to remain with living parents and harder for families to be ruptured based on no other reason than they are poor," said Ed Howard, Senior Counsel of the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law.
Howard, a co-sponsor of the measure, congratulated the governor and Cunningham on the bill's passing.
The bill amends Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.