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Dependency

Heightened public awareness has placed child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect at the fore. This increased sensitivity has put many parents and caregivers at risk of state investigation. Securing professional representation by a skilled family law attorney will give you the best defense in a juvenile dependency case. San Diego Family Law Attorney has years of experience in dependency law, and our involvement at the early stages of the investigation may prevent the filing of a petition against you.

Dependency is a highly specialized area in law that needs not only an attorney that is experienced in child court’s matters, but also one who is extremely sensitive to the needs of the individuals involved in such a case.

In most situations when neglect and child abuse are suspected, a social worker from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or other organization that protects children may come to your home and remove the child as a protective measure. At San Diego Family Law Attorney, we represent parents in dependency court who are trying to regain custody of their children. We also work with relatives who want to have children placed in the care of non-relatives placed in their care.

Changes in Juvenile Dependency Law

Like many other areas in law Juvenile dependency is evolving by the day. It is therefore imperative that you seek the services of a juvenile lawyer who is up to date with changes in the law. At our family law firm, we keep tabs on new developments in dependency law, and court rulings to be able to take the best legal course of action. There has been a sharp increase in these cases in California. The Judicial Council of California reports that in the year 2006 to 2007 the courts handled more than 100, 000 dependency cases. This caused the court system in California to re-examine dependency laws. San Diego Family Law Attorney stays abreast with all the laws that govern dependency to prevent any mistakes that could negatively impact your case.

What is the Purpose of a Juvenile Dependency Court?

These courts have their jurisdiction just like any other courts in the land and are mandated to hearing cases on juvenile dependency. The purpose of these courts is to safeguard children’s well-being, and safety by resolving and hearing cases concerning children who have been emotionally or physically neglected or/and experienced abuse from their guardians, parents or other people charged with the responsibility of taking care of them. A child is a minor or a person who is 18 years or below who hasn’t been emancipated legally by a court.

What Happens When the Authorities Place Your Child Under Protective Custody?

The authorities can intervene if your child has purportedly been neglected or abused; they first have to secure the safety of your child and then decide whether there is a perpetration of a crime against your child for an arrest to be carried out. When a child is neglected or abused they should hand over the child to the county’s CPS immediately.

The law permits Child Protection Authorities to detain your child for not more than 72 hours to protect them. If the Social Worker who investigates the allegations of neglect or abuse believes the child is not safe living at home. When your child is moved to protective custody, the social worker from Child Protective Services should immediately notify the parents or guardians. If the child is not at imminent risk when the allegations are being investigated the child may be permitted to continue living with the parents or guardian as they await court proceedings. If a record exists of past abuse and neglect dependency should be initiated, and the child detained. At this point, you should engage the services of San Diego Family Law Attorney.

Children Referrals to Child Protective Services

Sometimes complaints are made by relatives, neighbors, regular citizens or by mandated reporters (people in authority including teachers and police officers). They are obligated to report any neglect or child abuse cases.

When a child is taken from your home and put in protective custody, an investigation is conducted to determine if the child can safely be returned to your care. This investigation is conducted by a social worker from Social Services. During the initial visit, it is the social services officer who determines if the child is at major risk of neglect or abuse. If not the child should be permitted to remain in the custody of their care giver.

Depending on the kind of danger the child is exposed to the court may take action during the preliminary investigation. A petition may be filed by the investigating officer stating that the child is a dependent, if the child is not at sufficient risk to detain them. They may also pursue and close the case or request the care giver to get into a Voluntary Family Maintenance Agreement (VFM).

What is a Voluntary Family Maintenance Agreement “VFM”?

This is an agreement between the child protection agency and parents or guardians. The child protection agency can decide not to petition or detain the child if the care giver agrees to undertake parenting classes and other recommended counseling. If for six months the parents abide by this agreement or undertake the programs recommended by the child protection agency, then no action will ensue. If the parents fail to uphold the agreement or neglect or abuse is reported thereafter the child may be withdrawn from their care and a suit filed in court.

What Happens if Parents Decline to Get into a Voluntary Family Maintenance Agreement?

In some cases, parents and guardians opt not to get into a voluntary family maintenance agreement and require that the child protective services present their grievances in court. The CPS can offer a VFM except in cases where children have been put at risk for instance where there are allegations of drug use. In such cases, there is likelihood that the CPS agency may not be able to table sufficient proof that warrants the detention of the child or sustain a petition that the caregivers have subjected the child to maltreatment. If you experience this, we will be there to protect you from being coerced into getting into a VFM to let the government determine how you parent, when you have not maltreated your child. Many parents fall into the trap of CPS agencies as they try to regain custody of their children, yet the juvenile courts completely trust these organizations and completely doubt parents.

When Your Child is Withdrawn from Your Care?

After the investigation, if the child protection agency decides the child being investigated should be promptly withdrawn from the home to protect them from severe maltreatment. Then that child is placed in shelter care, either in a foster, relatives or group home and should stay away from their caregiver’s home as they await the preliminary court hearing. Not more than 72 hours after detaining the child, Child Protection Services are required to record a statement of allegations which is very similar to criminal charges. If confirmed it grants the court lawful grounds on which to claim legal authority over the child. The Juvenile Court is then obligated to undertake an arraignment or detention hearing to arraign the parents or the care givers in the petition and give them an opportunity to admit or deny the assertions after they are presented to them. The allegations can also be waived after being read.

Initial Hearing

The initial hearing is commonly referred to as a detention hearing when the child is withdrawn from home. If there was not enough reason to detain the child, it is referred to as an arraignment hearing. In this case, the court reviews the claims, if necessary, attorneys are appointed, and the next hearing date is set. If the child was detained, this should take 24 hours after filing of the petition. If the child was not detained the initial hearing can take place within 15 days.

Jurisdiction Hearing

At this stage, the court must first determine if it has the required legal authority to handle the case.  It should then determine if the abuse and neglect allegations are valid. This is required to take place in a period of 15 days after the detention hearing if the child has been placed in custody.  However, if the child is not in custody, it can take place within 15 days.

Disposition Hearing

It is at this stage that the court determines the child’s placement.  If the child remains at home, the court can issue orders for family maintenance services to be provided. If the child is out of home, the court can order that family reunification services be provided. If the child is in custody, this is required to take place in a period of 10 days of the jurisdictional hearing. If the child is not placed in custody, it can take place in the 30 day period after the jurisdictional hearing.

6 Month Review

At this stage, the court will review how the family is progressing. It then decides if the child can stay at home under supervision. If the child is placed out of home, the court determines if the child can be returned home.

12 Month Review

The court will continue reviewing how the family is progressing.  It makes a decision if the child can remain at home under supervision.  If the child is placed out of home, it decides if the child can be returned home. The court also determines if reunification efforts should continue.

18 Month Review

At this stage of the dependency hearing, the court will continue reviewing the family in terms of progress.  It also decides if the child should remain home under supervision.  This is the final hearing when the court has an opportunity to decide if a child placed out of home can be returned.

Permanency Planning

The court makes a determination if either adoption or legal guardianship is how the child should be permanently placed. This is required to take place within a period 120 days after the conclusion of family reunification services.

Post Permanency Review

The Juvenile Court dismisses dependency if the child is adopted or assigned a legal guardian.

Our Role in the Juvenile Dependency process

Dependency is a highly specialized area in law and is most effectively handled by an attorney who is not only experienced in child court matters, but who is also very sensitive to the needs of the parties in the dependency process. We at San Diego Family Law Attorney have represented many clients in San Diego and surrounding areas diligently and to the utmost standards.

When maltreatment of a child is suspected by a social worker, mandated person or any other person in authority, a child protective organization or the police may come into your home and withdraw the child or children to take precaution. We have vast experience in representing parents who want their children back in their custody. We also assist relatives who want children placed in their custody where children are in the custody of nonrelatives.

Convincing the court that you are able to take care of your child can be an uphill task once child protective services are involved.  You need a lawyer from San Diego Family Law Attorney to guide you through the process and explain complicated legal terms to prevent any confusion and uncertainty that can negatively affect your case. Working with our firm and lawyers will make you at ease through the entire process as you try to keep custody of your children or reunite with them.

If CPS has already contacted you, we will help you understand how the investigation will proceed. We will also guide you on how to answer some of the most common questions you need to answer during the judicial process. When your parental rights are being infringed upon or you risk losing them, you need premier legal representation by your side.

We at San Diego Family Law Attorney have years of experience in handling juvenile dependency cases and other child court matters.  For consultation with one of our acclaimed dependency lawyers, you can always reach us at 619-610-7425.

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