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How to Navigate Dependency Courts in 2022 – Best Basic Essential Guide for Parents

April 17, 2022

A Guide to California Dependency Court for Parents

mother visiting child while juvenile dependency court proceedings are open

The Dependency Court hears cases where there is a concern that a child has been or is in imminent danger of being abused, deserted, or neglected. This model of court focuses on ensuring that children are safe and protected and assisting families in resolving the issues that brought them to court in the first place.

The purpose of a dependency court is to act in the children’s best interests, not to punish parents or to deal with criminal charges. But, they have the power to alter your life and your child’s lives. Having a juvenile dependency case opened against you as a parent is severe. In this article, the lawyers at ALL Trial Lawyers give an overview of California dependency courts for parents.


California Dependency Court 

A dependency case’s circumstances will influence when and how the court will hold a dependency hearing. The court will evaluate numerous matters in each case during these hearings. For example, the court may consider the seriousness of the charges, the children’s ages, reports of police or social workers, healthcare reports, family history, relatives, and attorney oral arguments.

Courts will look to willful or negligent failure of the parent or guardian to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment, or by the inability of the parent or guardian to provide regular care for the child due to the parent’s or guardian’s mental illness, developmental disability, or substance abuse


How does a Dependency Court start?

The California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC 300 et seq.) gives the court power in dependency matters. A social worker may first file a report if you abuse, neglect, or endanger your kid. A social worker may also file a report if someone else is abusing, neglecting, or endangering your child and you are not protecting your child. There are also instances where reports may be made if your child is at risk of being abused or not being adequately cared for by you or someone else.

The police or social workers are the actors who generally report when a child is abused, neglected, or endangered. Therefore, a social worker or police officer must investigate child abuse and neglect reports. If a police officer is initially notified of abuse, neglect, or child endangerment, they often refer the case to a social worker for further investigation.

Once the complaint is made, and the social worker takes up the case, they may choose not to take any action, offer any voluntary services, or take the child from your care and file a court petition that asks the court to open a case to protect your child.


Court Appearance 

A social worker will notify you to appear in court if your child has been removed and put into protective care. The social worker will attempt to contact you in person or over the phone and notify you of the date for you to appear in court. The initial court appearance is known as a Detention Hearing in most courts.


Detention Hearings

This hearing is only for families whose children were taken away from them. It would be best if you met with your attorney before the hearing. Your attorney will give you a paper to read called a petition. It will have a list of allegations that the social worker thinks are going on with you and your kids.

The judge will decide whether your child can go home right away at the detention hearing. This hearing is the first time the judge will be asked to ensure that your child is safe. If your child can’t go home right away, the judge will decide when and where you can visit your child.


Parental Decisions

 Keep in mind that even if your kid has been removed from your care, you can still make educational decisions on their behalf. As a result, you should continue to be involved in your child’s educational choices. However, if you display an inability to respond to or participate in school meetings, the court may restrict your right to make educational decisions. You can also keep your right to make healthcare decisions for your child and your right to go to doctor’s visits.


Contact an Attorney

You deserve to have a lawyer who will help you fight to get your children back. If you are dealing with a Juvenile Dependency or CPS case, you need the juvenile dependency attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side. Don’t risk calling the wrong lawyer.


Call us now for your free consultation at (866) 811-4255.

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