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 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 by 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?
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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