A California appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that counties can sometimes be ordered to pay for transportation for parents to visit children who are being held in juvenile facilities elsewhere in the state.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal issued the ruling Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by a youth against the Contra Costa County Probation Department.

The youth, identified by the initials L.M., was declared a ward of the juvenile court in 2007 after being found to have molested his 3-year-old stepsister when he was 12. He was placed in a residential treatment program in Riverside County, several hundred miles from home.

Part of L.M.’s case plan included monthly visits with his father.

Through his lawyer, the youth sued to seek to have the county required to pay for his father’s transportation costs.

The court said that in some circumstances – such as when a reunification plan calls for visits, when a parent can’t pay for transportation and when funds are available – the county can be required to pay.

But the panel said that in L.M.’s case, the father hadn’t submitted proof that he couldn’t pay. The court said the father would need to file additional documents before seeking to have his travel costs paid.

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