Frequently Asked Questions
What is Dependency?
Juvenile Dependency actions involve alleged abuse or neglect of a child by a parent or caregiver. The goal of these proceedings is to protect children and preserve or reunify families whenever possible.
Child Protective Services (CPS) has come to my home to conduct an investigation, what should I do?
As stated above, the goal of Juvenile Dependency Proceedings is to protect children and preserve the family; therefore, you will want to be as cooperative with CPS as possible. That being said, anything you say to a social worker, can and will be used against you if they suspect abuse or neglect. Be careful to protect your rights and the rights of your children. You can always contact James Legal Group to help explain your rights.
Child Protective Services (CPS) removed my children, what will happen next?
You will be given the location and time to show up to the initial hearing referred to as a “Detention hearing.” The social worker should arrange for visitation between you and your child(ren) prior to the hearing. You should provide the social worker with names of relatives/friends who are able to care for the child(ren) while temporarily detained. If you are planning on hiring an attorney, rather than being provided a court appointed attorney, you should contact them right away and ask them to attend the Detention hearing with you.
What happens at the Detention hearing?
You will receive a copy of the petition which alleges the reason CPS has filed a Dependency case. CPS has a very low burden (proving their case) at the detention hearing. If the court believes they have shown enough evidence, the court will make a prima facie finding and order the parent(s) to attend the next hearing referred to as the Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing. Additionally, the Court will decide whether the child(ren) should stay with their parent(s) or live with someone else until the next hearing. The parent(s) will provide the names of relatives/friends that can be evaluated for the child(ren) to temporarily stay. If the child(ren) are removed from the parent(s) care, the court will make visitation orders so that the parent(s) can see the child(ren). Finally, the court will provide the parent(s) with resources to get involved in social services that will help get the child back into their care.
What happens at the Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing?
At the Jurisdictional Hearing, the Court decides whether the petition that has been filed by CPS is true. The Court has three ways to do this: (1) The parents or guardians admit the petition is true; (2) The parents or guardians submit on the petition; or (3) The parents or guardians dispute, or contest the petition. If the parents choose to dispute the petition, the court sets a trial date where all parties’ present evidence to the court and the court makes a decision after hearing the evidence. If the court dismisses the petition at the Jurisdictional Hearing, the case is closed, and the children are returned to the parent(s) care. If the court decides the petition is true, the court immediately moves forward to the Dispositional Hearing. At the Dispositional Hearing, the court decides whether the child(ren) will be placed back with their parent(s) or in the home of a relative, foster parent, or group home. If the court places the child(ren) back with the parent(s), the parent(s) are generally ordered to participate in a Family Maintenance Program. If the court does not place the child(ren) back with their parent(s), the court will order the parent(s) to participate in a Family Reunification Program, designed to get the child(ren) back in the parent(s) custody. There are some situations where CPS does not offer any type of services to the parents and instead asks to find another permanent plan for the child, such as adoption.
What is a non-custodial parent?
A non-custodial parent, is a parent that did not have custody of the child(ren) at the time the alleged abuse occurred. This does not mean that they were out running errands but rather that they did not live in the same household as the child. If a non-custodial parent can establish that they were non-custodial, were unaware of the abuse occurring, and can provide a stable and suitable home for their child(ren), they are entitled to custody.
What is a Family Maintenance Hearing?
If the court placed the child with one or both of the parents at the Jurisdictional/Dispositional hearing, the court holds a Family Maintenance Hearing six (6) months later. At this hearing, the court looks at whether the parent(s) have completed the social services that were ordered. The court then decides based on the parent(s) progress, whether to continue to supervise the family. The court can close the case or continue the case for an additional six (6) months.
What are 6 Month, 12 Month, 18 Month, and 24 Month Hearings?
If the court placed the child somewhere other than the parent(s) care at the Jurisdictional/Dispositional hearing, the court holds hearings every six months. The purpose of these hearings is to determine whether the parent(s) have made progress in the social services that were ordered by the court. Based on the progress made by the parent(s), the court can continue or terminate the services. If the court terminates the services to the parent(s), the court would set a hearing pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 366.26 (commonly called a 26 hearing) where parental rights could potentially be severed permanently.
What is a 26 Hearing?
A 26 hearing is a hearing set pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 366.26. At this hearing, the court makes a permanent plan for the child. The plans can be: (1) terminate parental rights so the child(ren) can be adopted; (2) name a legal guardian for the child(ren); or (3) put the child(ren) with a relative, foster parent or in a group home until they are 18. The focus of this hearing is on selecting a permanent plan for the child as stated above; however, a parent can petition the court for return of the child under Welfare and Institutions Code 388.
What is a 388 petition?
A 388 petition is a petition filed by any party involved in the juvenile dependency process asking the court to change an existing court order based on a change of circumstances. Most commonly, 388 petitions are filed by parent(s) at a 26 hearing when their parental rights are being threatened. Additionally, attorneys representing parents may file this type of petition to ask for unsupervised visits, overnight visitation, or placement of the child(ren) with the parent(s) or relative. If you no longer have a court appointed attorney and plan to file a 388 motion, you should contact James Legal Group to assist you in the process.
What is a De Facto Parent and who can get it?
A De Facto Parent is a person who has been found by the court to have assumed the role of parent on a day-to-day basis for a substantial period of time. A De Facto Parent fulfills the child’s physical and psychological needs for care and affection. Anyone that meets the above definition can apply for De Facto status.
How do I get De Facto Status and why would I want it?
An individual seeking to establish the status of a De Facto Parent must file his or her request with the court. The court will conduct a hearing (especially if other parties object) to determine whether this status can be received. If De Facto Parent status is granted, the De Facto Parent becomes a party to the case and has certain (limited) rights, such as the right to be present at all dependency hearings, the right to present evidence, and the right to request custody and visitation rights.
I am a relative but don’t want to request De Facto status, what are my rights?
Relatives do have rights in dependency proceedings even when they do not request De Facto status. Although, they cannot directly interfere with the reunification plan, relatives can provide valuable information about the family and therefore can be very helpful. Relatives can request visitation, placement, or other services for the child(ren). If you are in this position, contact James Legal Group for more information.
I am a foster parent/concurrent home but don’t want to request De Facto status, what are my rights?
Foster Parents do have rights in dependency proceedings even when they do not request De Facto status. Although, they cannot directly interfere with the reunification plan, foster parents can provide valuable information about the child and therefore can be very helpful in a dependency proceeding. Foster parents can request services for the child(ren) which may essential. If you are in this position, contact an James Legal Group for more information.
California Welfare and Institutions Code http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/calawquery?codesection=wic
Judicial Counsel – The Juvenile Dependency Court and You http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/dependencycourt-pamphlet-bw.pdf
California Dependency Online Guide http://cadependencyonlineguide.info/
California Courts- A Guide to Dependency Courts http://www.courts.ca.gov/1205.htm
California Courts – Caregivers and The Courts http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/caregivers.pdf
California Foster Parents Bill of Rights http://fosterparentlawyer.com/files/2012/07/California-Foster-Parent-Bill-of-Rights-11.pdf