Juvenile Dependency and Family Law

juvenile dependency

Juvenile DependencyJuvenile dependency is the area of law that seeks to protect children who may have been abused or neglected by their parents. When the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) suspects a child of being mistreated or abused, the parents may be faced with having a case in Juvenile Dependency Court. Juvenile dependency law is extremely complex and you will need an experienced attorney to assure that you have the best opportunity to prevent removal of your children from your custody.

Often, a case commences with an emergency detention from the parents' custody by a social worker, followed by a detention hearing no more than 3 court days later. From there, the case will progress to a jurisdiction/disposition hearing; 6-month review hearings; and potentially termination of parental rights. At each stage of the proceedings, a parent or dependent child has the right to contest the social worker's recommendation and set the matter for trial. In juvenile dependency matters, all decisions are made by hearing officers, not juries.

DCFS Referral/Investigation of parental neglect/abuse: If a report is made to DCFS that your child has been abused or neglected, DCFS will initiate a child abuse investigation on your family. The referral may come from an ex-spouse, neighbor, teacher or law enforcement. DCFS will begin by assessing the level of endangerment to your child. DCFS may show up at your home unannounced or they may contact you to schedule an interview at the DCFS office. It is crucial that you have a skilled dependency law attorney representing you at this stage of an investigation in order to document your statements (DCFS does not permit a parent to audio or video tape interviews with parents or children) and protect your legal rights to prevent removal of your children from your custody or to prevent a substantiated referral of abuse or neglect. If the child abuse allegation is deemed to be substantiated, your name will be listed on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) as maintained by the California Attorney General’s Office. Once you have been notified that you have been listed on the CACI index you will have 30 days to request an administrative hearing to eliminate your name from the list. An experienced dependency attorney will maximize your ability to mount a successful defense.

De Facto Parent Status: In order to be granted de facto parent status a person must establish that he or she has assumed the role of a parent and cared for the child, developing a substantial interest in the companionship, care and management of the child for a substantial period of time. Foster parents do not have the same rights as biological parents in dependency cases. However, if de facto parent status is granted, the de facto parent has the right to be represented by a lawyer, be present during court proceedings, present evidence, and assert and protect his or her own interest in the child. De Facto Parent status is a good option for foster parents and relatives who have a child in their care and believe that the case is heading in a direction that is not in the children’s best interest.

Our office has represented parents, grandparents, relatives, legal guardians, foster parents and prospective adoptive parents in thousands of juvenile dependency matters in Southern California. Our unparalleled expertise, vigorous advocacy and loyalty to our clients enable us to reach successful outcomes for our clients.

If you are facing any of these situations call us so we can begin assisting you with your juvenile dependency matters.

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