The Juvenile/Dependency Court System
The juvenile dependency area is the system in which the court takes jurisdiction over your child for reasons of neglect or physical harm, among other things. This is a very serious matter, because there is a possibility of losing your child if you do not have an attorney to fight for your family and your rights.
The Juvenile Dependency System is encompassed in the juvenile law and has two goals: to protect the children in your family and to preserve and strengthen the family at the same time. Often, the only way you will know if you are the focus of a CPS/DFS (Child Protective Services/Department of Family Services) investigation is through an unannounced visit by a social worker, a phone call from a social worker, a social worker leaving a card on your door asking you to give them a call, or a letter in your mailbox. You must take whatever measures appropriate to contact an attorney IMMEDIATELY. The very first steps that you take in dealing with social services is CRITICAL.
If the social worker (CPS/DFS), after his or her initial investigation, decides to file a petition in the name of your children for reasons of parental neglect, etc. . . you will be notified of the court date. Often you will just be notified of a court date and nothing else! You have the right to have a copy of the petition that they file with the court before the hearing. Time and time again, parents appear in court with no knowledge of the allegations or their specifics. You should have all of that information before you appear in court.
- How Does A Dependency Court Case Begin?
- What Happens Once A Dependency Case Is Filed?
- Who Can File A Dependency Action?
- Can I Get My Children Back At Every Phase Of Dependency?
Juvenile Dependency Court And Related Proceedings
Juvenile dependency court is where parents may end up when abuse or neglect is reported to either the police or to Child Protective Services (CPS). If CPS concludes that there is enough evidence of this abuse or neglect, the child or children in question may be removed from the home, either temporarily or permanently, after a series of hearings. During this process, parents are entitled to be represented at all time by a juvenile dependency attorney in Walnut Creek, California.
While it may be true that CPS and police officers can remove children from a home on an emergency basis, those children can only be kept out of the home after a juvenile court judge has decided that the home in question is not safe. Children who are temporarily removed from a home will be sent to stay with relatives, if possible. If a relative is not an option, the child will be placed in foster care or into a group home. In all but the most severe cases, parents will have the opportunity to visit with their children.
If you are facing removal proceedings, it is absolutely imperative that you are represented by an experienced attorney. Considering contacting the experienced juvenile dependency attorneys at The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson in Walnut Creek, CA for help.
Court-Ordered Reunification Services
If you have been given the chance to have your children returned to you, the court will order you to accept and complete certain services. These services will be suggested by a social workers and your Walnut Creek juvenile dependency attorney can negotiate with them on your behalf. Services may include parenting classes, drug or alcohol abuse treatment (and testing), or mental health services. You may also be asked to look for employment or to obtain further education.
What Types Of Behavior Could Result In A Juvenile Dependency Case?
Adults have a constitutional right to parent their children in any manner that they see fit, including discipline. However, there are legal limits. Parents are free to use physical discipline on their children, but only in moderation and only if it does not cause any injury to the child. Parents may decline to enroll their child in school only if that child is to be homeschooled.
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and severe emotional abuse are all grounds for a CPS investigation and a juvenile dependency case. The following are common examples of abuse and neglect:
- Beating a child, causing injury that requires hospitalization.
- Failing to call the police after your children tell you that they are being sexually abused by an adult, and continuing to expose the children to that adult.
- Failing to send a child to school regularly or failing keep the house stocked with food
- Regularly leaving a young child home alone
- Using, manufacturing, or selling drugs in the home
Many abusive or neglectful behaviors are also crimes and can result in criminal charges against you. Do not take a CPS accusation in Walnut Creek, CA lightly; call the juvenile dependency attorneys at The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson immediately.
If your children are taken into protective custody by CPS/DFS, the parent must be informed by the most efficient means available:
- that the child is in custody;
- the nature of the process, and;
- how a parent can regain custody.
Usually, a parent knows only one thing: their child has been taken and other information is being kept from them. Often, the social worker is “unavailable” or vague. Other times, the social worker will ask you to come in for an interview. THIS IS A CRITICAL STAGE. You have the right to be represented at every stage. It is critical to meet with the social worker WITH AN ATTORNEY. It is very risky to your position as a parent to meet with the social worker alone, without representation.
BY LAW, A SOCIAL WORKER FROM CPS/DFS MUST EITHER RELEASE YOUR CHILD OR FILE A PETITION WITHIN 48 HOURS
You could risk losing custody of your children at the detention hearing or even before the court hearing. YOU MUST CONTACT AN ATTORNEY WHO WORKS IN THE AREA OF JUVENILE LAW/JUVENILE DEPENDENCY IMMEDIATELY. It is unwise to appear before a judge without an adequate legal representation. Juvenile Dependency is a unique area of the law and you will need an attorney who works SPECIFICALLY in the area of juvenile law/juvenile dependency that is experienced in order to best advocate for you.
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