Child Dependency Hearings
Child Dependency Initial Detention Hearing
The child dependency initial hearing is the first hearing that occurs after the child is removed from your home by the request of the Department of Social Services. The initial child dependency hearing is called the “detention hearing.”
The initial hearing occurs after the emergency responder for the Department of Social Services investigates and decides the child is not safe in your home. The emergency responder must file a petition with the court alleging abuse within 48 hours of deciding that the child is not safe in your custody and must schedule an initial hearing with the court as soon as possible. This generally means your initial child dependency hearing will be held the first court day after the petition is filed by the emergency response social worker.
The child dependency attorneys at Wallin & Klarich understand that the separation from your child before the initial hearing is stressful and that it is important that you are reunited as soon as possible. We are willing to accompany you to the first hearing and ensure that you have the legal support needed to help you regain custody.
During the detention hearing, the judge will review the facts of your case and decide what living situation is in the child’s best interest. The court can decide to place your child in the custody of relatives or can temporarily place your child in the foster care system. If the judge finds that the facts do not show that the child is in any danger in your home, the child may also be returned to your custody.
Care of the Child After the Initial Hearing
If during the initial child dependency hearing the court decides to remove the child from your custody, it is important that you tell your child dependency attorney if you have any relatives that can provide your child with a safe and temporary home. Although the court is not required to place the child with relatives, the court must give preferential consideration to any requests given by your relatives to care for the child.
The court will look to the child’s preference and the safety of the relative’s living situation to determine if the child should be placed with the relative. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich understand that when your child is removed from your physical custody, it is important that they are placed in a familiar and stable situation. We can assist you to present information to the court that you have relatives who are ready and able to step in and care for your child.
At the detention hearing you will be asked to either admit or deny the specific allegations of abuse in the petition filed against you. Your lawyer in almost every case will deny the allegations. The matter is then set down for a jurisdictional hearing, which is the hearing where the judge will determine if the allegations in the petition are true or not true.
Additional Information Regarding Child Custody
Another critical decision the court will make at the detention hearing is what visitation you will have with your child pending the jurisdiction hearing. The minimum visitation that is normally granted is one or two hours a week monitored by the assigned social worker. These visits normally take place in a social workers office and they normally do not result in a positive experience for either you or the child.
In other cases the court can order that a family member act as a monitor for the parent/child visits. It is extremely important that your attorney argue for the most liberal visitation possible. Your child will be scared and will not appreciate what is going on. In almost every case your child will want to have visitation with you. However, the County Counsel, or the lawyer for the minor, may argue to limit your visitation pending the jurisdiction hearing.
Child Dependency Jurisdiction Hearing
After the initial detention hearing, a jurisdiction hearing will be held. The jurisdiction hearing can be thought of as the “parent’s trial,” as the court will review the facts of the case to determine if the allegations against you as a parent are true.
During the jurisdiction hearing, the judge has the ability to decide if all, some, or none of the allegations against you are true. If the judge finds that the allegations against you are not sufficiently proven, he can dismiss the case and your child will be returned to your custody. However, if the judge finds that there is merit and truth to the allegations against you, the case will proceed to a disposition hearing.
Standard of Proof for the Jurisdiction Hearing
At the jurisdiction hearing, the court only needs to find the allegations against you to be “true” or “false” by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a low bar for the court to meet, which means it is vital that you retain an experienced child dependency attorney to represent you at the trial. The County Counsel, who is an experienced lawyer, will be representing the social workers at the jurisdiction hearing and will be asking that the petition be found true against you. The court will appoint a lawyer for the minor children who will also advocate for what she believes is in their best interest. You will need a lawyer fighting for you if you do not want to lose legal custody of your children. The family law attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are committed to helping you and your child to be placed in the best possible situation.
When Does the Jurisdiction Hearing Occur?
The jurisdiction hearing is held within 15 days after the court orders that the child be detained at the initial detention hearing. There are special rules in the child dependency court that make it easier for the court to find the allegations against you true. Very few lawyers are familiar with child dependency law. This is why you need to make certain the lawyer you hire to help you win your children back has years of experience in these type of cases.
At the conclusion of the jurisdiction hearing if the court finds that some or all of the allegations in the petition are true the court must decide whether you will have the children returned to you immediately or at some time in the future. For this purpose the court will then set a disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing many different results may occur.
Child Dependency Disposition Hearing
If the court finds at the jurisdiction hearing that there is truth to the allegations of child abuse or neglect against you, your case will proceed to a disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing the court will review all evidence offered by you or any other party related to the case.
The court will also review what is called a reunification plan for you and your child. A reunification plan is a case plan, or proposed plan of action that is prepared by the social worker assigned to your case. The reunification plan generally will lay out several requirements for you to follow in order to remedy the problems and behavior that originally caused your child to be removed from your custody.
The reunification plan may include a requirement that you attend parenting classes, drug and alcohol counseling, domestic violence counseling, or family counseling. If the court finds upon later review that you have complied with the terms of the reunification plan, the court may order that the child be returned to your custody. A reunification plan is an important tool that can assist you to keep your family united.
After the court reviews all of the evidence presented at the disposition hearing, the court may:
- Release the child to your custody, but still require that a social worker monitor and supervise the situation to ensure that the child is safe and cared for
- Order the child to stay in the home of a relative or other close friend, or in a foster home
- Order you to participate in counseling or parenting programs. This may also be included in the reunification plan
- Make decisions as to when you will be allowed to visit your child
The court has many options as it relates to your visitation with your child. The court can order that you only see your child with a “monitor.” The monitor may be a professional monitor, a mental health professional, or a family member. The court will make that decision as well. The court may also permit you to have unmonitored visits with your child in a “public place.”
When Does the Disposition Hearing Occur?
The disposition hearing will normally be held within 10 days after the jurisdiction hearing. This gives you time to consult with your child dependency attorney and discuss the appropriate plan of action to take during the disposition hearing. At Wallin & Klarich we care about you and your child and will fight to ensure you remain in contact with your child.
If the court accepts all or part of the reunification plan then the court will set the matter over for a six month review hearing. During that six month review hearing a social worker will be assigned to your family. The social worker must visit you and your child at least one time each month to monitor the progress of the reunification plan.
Review of the Case After the Disposition Hearing
After the disposition hearing, the court is required to review your case every six months to ensure that you and your child are still in a situation that the court finds to be the most appropriate. If the court finds after reviewing your case that you have complied with the terms of the reunification plan and remedied the problems that caused the child to be removed from your custody in the first place, the court may decide to release the child to your custody. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may need to attend several subsequent court hearings. At Wallin & Klarich we are committed to assisting you every step of the way through the child dependency court process.
Six Month Review Hearing
During the review hearing, the court will look to the progress that has been made by you according to the reunification plan. If the court finds that you are doing well according to the reunification plan and that it would be in the child’s best interest to have the child returned to your custody, the court does have the authority to allow the child to return to your home. The court may also order that your child stay in the custody of another relative or guardian, or that the child remain in a foster home.
At the review hearing the court is required to review the social workers report when evaluating your progress with all portions of the reunification plan. You have the legal right to demand a formal hearing at this time. Your lawyer can call the social worker and question him or her about the contents of the social workers report. You can also testify and have other witnesses testify at this hearing in an attempt to convince the court that your child should be returned to your custody.
If at the conclusion of the hearing the court does not return the child to your care the court can set the matter over for a twelve month review hearing. In this situation the court is giving you six more months to satisfy the court that you are ready to regain custody of your child.
If at the 12 month review hearing the court still believes you should not have custody of your child then the matter can proceed to a permanency planning hearing.
Permanency Planning and “26 Hearings”
A permanency hearing may be held within either 12 months after your child enters the foster care system or is ordered to be taken care of by another relative or guardian.
During the permanency hearing the court will decide if the child should be returned to your custody or permanently stay in foster care or in the custody of the relative or guardian. If the court decides that it is not in the best interest of the child to return home to your custody a permanent plan will be implemented. It is important that you are accompanied by a skilled attorney to ensure that you do not lose your parental rights permanently. At Wallin & Klarich we will fight to have you remain in contact with your child.
Selection and Implementation Hearing
If the court decides to terminate your parental rights after the permanency hearing, a selection and implementation hearing will be held within 120 days. This is also known as a 26 hearing, because it is described under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.
Once reunification services and your parental rights are terminated, the focus shifts to the needs of the child for permanency and stability. At this hearing, the court can terminate parental rights if the child is likely to be adopted. A permanent plan for the child may also include a plan to establish legal guardianship for your child.
Call the Family Law Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
The child dependency process can be complex and stressful. It is important that your child is placed in the best possible situation. With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura , there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you happen to live.
The child dependency attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been helping parents gain custody of their children in child dependency cases for over 30 years.
Call us today at (888) 749-7428. We will get through this together.