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Juvenile Dependency Judicial Process

Trying to understand the juvenile dependency judicial process can seem like deciphering a complex code. If a petition has been filed against you alleging child abuse or neglect, it is important to work with a qualified lawyer who can help you understand the legal process, as well as your rights and options. There are strict time frames and deadlines which must be met, and important steps to take in order to protect your parental rights. When you work with the Sonoma County Dependency Legal Group, we will guide and inform you every step of the way. Our goal is your goal — to keep your family together.

Understanding The Juvenile Dependency Judicial Process In California

After the CPS investigation and filing of the dependency petition, there are many steps in the judicial process which include a number of court hearings, including:

  • Initial or detention hearing: This hearing is held as soon as possible after the petition is filed with the court. During these proceedings, a judge will decide if your child's safety requires he/she be removed from your care until the allegations of abuse or neglect are addressed at the jurisdictional hearing.
  • Jurisdictional hearing: At this hearing, the court will hear evidence from both sides and make a ruling on the validity of the abuse or neglect charges. If the court finds the allegations to be true, they will uphold the petition.
  • Disposition hearing: The dispositional hearing is often held on the same day as the jurisdictional hearing. At this time, the social worker proposes a case plan (or reunification plan) which outlines services offered to the parent and their responsibility to complete them. The court will rule on whether to have your child removed from your home while you complete the reunification plan.
  • Six month review hearing: Six months after your child is placed in the care of a relative or foster parent, your case will be reviewed by the court. A judge will decide if you have upheld the terms of your reunification plan and if you are now able to provide a safe and healthy home. If you are still deemed unfit to care for your child, he or she will remain in alternative care for another six months.
  • 12 and 18 month permanency hearings: At these hearings, the court will determine if it is safe for your child to return home, if the reunification plan should continue or if efforts to reunify should stop. It is important to note that ceasing reunification efforts does not necessarily mean your parental rights will be terminated.
  • Selection and implementation .26 Hearing: During these proceedings, a judge will listen to recommendations from a social worker as to the best future for your child. The court may terminate your parent rights, and order your child to be placed for adoption, designate a legal guardian or rule on alternative permanent living arrangements.
  • Post-permanency review hearings: These hearings will happen every six months until your child is adopted, a permanent guardianship is established, the case is dismissed or your child turns 18 years of age (and in some cases 21 years of age).

You can learn more about the judicial process and timeline from this flowchart of dependency proceedings. It is important to note that if your child is under the age of three years old, the process will move much more swiftly.

Juvenile Dependency Judicial Process Santa Rosa Attorney

Contact our Sonoma County juvenile dependency court attorney at 707-623-1875 to discuss your best options for a happy ending.

Helping Families Stay Together