Juvenile dependency is an area of law that was intended to protect children who may have been abused or neglected by their parents or guardians. The legal process is typically triggered after a referral is made to child protective services (dcfs, cps, hsa, cfs) stating that a child has been abused or neglected. The referral may come from an ex-spouse, neighbor, physician, therapist, teacher or from law enforcement. Upon receipt of this referral, cps will initiate a child abuse investigation and if they suspect that a child is at imminent risk of being mistreated or abused, a social worker will conduct an emergency detention of the child from the parent’s custody and a detention hearing will take place within 3 court days. At the detention hearing, cps will present evidence why continued detention of the child is necessary and file a petition charging the parents with abuse.
JUVENILE DEPENDENCY ATTORNEYS
Juvenile Dependency Law is an extremely specific area of law. The California Rules of Court require attorneys who practice in this field to have background, training and/or experience in Juvenile Dependency Law, as well as familiarity with state and local rules applicable to Dependency Court. Attorneys are required to submit a Declaration of Competence, under oath, attesting to their background, training & experience in Juvenile Dependency Law at the Attorneys’ initial appearance in Juvenile Court.
SOCIAL WORKER INVESTIGATIONS
CPS investigations are typically initiated by a call to the Child Abuse Hotline or through a referral by a mandatory reporter such as a teacher, physician or therapist.
JUVENILE DEPENDENCY COURT REPRESENTATION
There are many court proceedings in a Juvenile Dependency case. I aggressively represents parents and guardians throughout all phases of the Juvenile Dependency Court litigation from the arraignment hearing, through the trial, to the subsequent review hearings and until the case is closed.
INITIAL COURT HEARING (DETENTION)
The first court proceeding is referred to as the Detention Hearing and the following issues are addressed: 1) The parent’s arraignment; 2) Placement and Visitation Orders; 3) Selection of future court dates including a trial schedule in the event the matter cannot be resolved through attorney negotiations.
If a parent disputes the charges contained within the Petition, they have the right to have a Court Trial. If their child is detained from their custody, the trial must take place within 15 court days of the detention hearing and 30 days if the child was not removed from their custody or was released back to the parent at the Detention Hearing. Parents are afforded all of the same due process rights they are entitled to in any other Superior Court proceeding. The parent’s attorney can subpoena relevant witnesses and examine them on the stand under oath. During the trial, with a few exceptions, CPS has the burden to present evidence to the court that the alleged abuse in the petition occurred. The child has a court-appointed attorney in every case who advocates for whatever position they feel is in the child’s best interests. Oftentimes this recommendation is contrary to the parent’s wishes and requests.
The law requires that certain classes of relatives of children who have been detained by CPS be given preferential placement consideration. These relatives have the right to demand that their homes and backgrounds be assessed first and can retain an attorney to secure this preferential consideration. Relatives who qualify under the preferential relative statute should seek representation as soon as possible to ensure their rights.