Child Dependency in California
The Child Dependency court’s job is to protect children from abuse or neglect that occurs in the home. The Child Dependency court can make orders to:
- Take children away from your home
- Send your children to live with relatives or foster care
- Terminate your parental rights
- Create new parental rights
At Wallin & Klarich we understand that the child dependency process can be traumatic and stressful for both you and your child. We believe that the best place for a child is with his or her own family, as long as he or she is safe and cared for. Theattorneys at Wallin & Klarich have compiled information regarding the child dependency system so that you may have a general understanding of the complex court process. We are willing to assist you through the dependency court process and will fight to ensure that you remain the primary caretaker of your child.
The Start of the Child Dependency Process
The child dependency process begins after the Department of Social Services is notified about the alleged abuse of your child and they begin an investigation. This means an emergency response worker will look into the situation and make the decision as to whether or not the child is in a safe environment. If the emergency response worker decides that the child is unsafe in the home, the child can be removed from your custody and made a dependent of the court. As a parent, having your child removed from your home can be one of the most painful and traumatic experiences in your life. At Wallin & Klarich we want to assist you to prevent your child from being taken from your custody.
If the child is taken from your home, a court hearing must be scheduled as soon as possible. You must attend the initial hearing and will be notified of the date and time of the hearing by authorities. The initial hearing is also referred to as the detention hearing, as the court will decide whether the child will return home with you or if they will remain a dependent of the court. The family law attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are experienced in child dependency hearings and will remain by your side to make sure you get the best possible outcome in your case.
At the detention hearing, you will be given the opportunity to admit or deny the allegations of abuse and neglect. The judge will review the facts of your case and decide what living situation would be best for the child. If the court finds it would not be in the best interest of the child to return to your custody, the court can then place your child in the foster care system or order the child be taken care of by a relative. It is important that you tell your attorney about any relatives that may be able to care for your child because the court will give preferential consideration to any relatives that are able to provide care.
If your child is not returned to your custody after the detention hearing, you will be allowed a jurisdiction hearing where you will have the chance to respond to the abuse allegations against you.
At the jurisdiction hearing the judge will decide whether the allegations against you are true. It is important that you hire an experienced child dependency attorney who can help you convince the court that the child’s best interests are served by remaining in your custody. If the judge finds that the allegations against you are true, the judge will not likely allow your child to be returned to your custody and the case will proceed to a disposition hearing.
Disposition Hearing and the Reunification Plan
If your child is not allowed to return to your home after the jurisdiction hearing, a child dependency disposition hearing will be held 10 days later. At the disposition hearing the court will generally implement what is called a proposed reunification plan, or case plan, for you and your child. The case plan will lay out a plan for when you and your child can be reunited if you complete certain requirements. After accepting the reunification plan, the court will schedule a six month review hearing where the court will evaluate your progress on the reunification plan.
The child dependency process is complex and lengthy, and can result in you being separated from your child for a substantial period of time. We understand that separation is difficult for both you and your child and can assist you during this lengthy court process and help to reunite you with your child as quickly as possible.
Six Month-Twelve Month Review Hearing
During the six month review hearing the court will evaluate your progress in terms of the reunification plan. If the court finds that you have followed the reunification plan and have remedied the problems that caused your child to be removed from your custody, the court may allow the child to return to your care.
If the court finds that sufficient progress has not been made, the court will set a 12 month review hearing, where the court will again review your progress in terms of the reunification plan. If the court still believes that it is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to your custody after the 12 month hearing, the court will set a permanency hearing to decide on a more permanent home for your child.
Permanency Planning Hearing and “26 Hearing”
During the permanency hearing the court’s goal is to decide on a permanent home for the child. If the court has previously found that the child should not be returned to your custody, the court may decide that the child remain permanently in foster care or in the care of a relative.
If the court decides to completely terminate your parental rights, a selection and implementation hearing will then be held, also known as a “26 hearing. At the “26 hearing” the goal is to establish a plan that can be implemented to ensure the child has a safe and stable permanent home. The court may seek to have the child adopted or may establish a legal guardian for your child.
As stated above, the child dependency process begins when the Department of Social Services is notified of possible abuse or neglect of your child. Many times the Department of Social Services is notified by what is called a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report any incident of child abuse. California Penal Code 11165.7 provides a list of all mandated reporters in the State of California. Mandated reporters include doctors, teachers, and all employees of child day care facilities, clergy members, and police officers.
Child Dependency FAQs
To help you understand the various aspects the child dependency process, our attorneys have provided answers to some of the most commonly asked questions in our FAQ section. There, you can find answers to questions like:
1. Why was my child taken from me?
2. Can I lose my child permanently?
3. Can my child live with a relative?
Wallin & Klarich Family Law Attorney
If you are involved in the child dependency court process, it is vital you consult with a a Wallin & Klarich attorney. We want to ensure that you are supported through the entire dependency process.
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.
Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a consultation. We will get through this together.