Juvenile Law

When it comes to our children, protection and safety should always be our first concern. It’s why we punish our children when they do something that may harm them or others. But in some cases, punishment can become abuse, and we all have a duty to report child abuse and neglect when we see it happening.

At King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc., we take the welfare of a child very seriously. We want to make sure that all children reside in a safe, loving and stable environment, and wish to protect them when they’re not. Whether a child is being abused or neglected, is currently in the system (or have become wards of the state), or are looking to be reunited with their families, or if a family member is being falsely accused of abuse or neglect, we want to be there to help both the child and their parents or guardians feel safe and protected, and above all else, happy.

Juvenile Dependency (Parents)

Juvenile dependency is a serious matter, as it could change your life and your child’s life forever. The court will only get involved in a case when the Department of Child Protective Services reports a child is being abused or neglected. Once this occurs, an investigation as to the merits of the accusation will begin. It is up to the court to determine whether the child may remain at home with the parents or be reprimanded to state custody for the duration of the investigation and subsequent hearings.

When you have been accused of child abuse or neglect, there are several types of hearings you must attend.

  • Detention Hearing: This is where you will find out what allegations have been brought against you and whether the child will be able to return home during the formal investigation or be given instruction as to when and where you may visit your child.
  • Jurisdictional hearing: This is where the judge decides whether the allegations against you are true. If the judge decides any of the allegations are true, the child will become a dependent of the court. Otherwise, the case is dismissed.
  • Dispositional Hearing: If the court has taken jurisdiction, then the court will give instruction as to how to make your situation more favorable for the child.
  • Review Hearings: The court will hold a review hearing every six months to determine the status of your case. Once all instructions have been followed and the court believes the environment is safe, you may be reunified with the child.

Juvenile Dependency (Children)

A dependent is someone who must rely on an adult to care for their needs. Should your parents fail to take care of you properly, or you do not feel safe with them, the court may step in and remove you from your home to live with a relative or other family member until your parents can earn the trust of the court.

There are several people you may meet with as part of a juvenile dependency case:

  • A Lawyer: This is your advocate, or the person who will fight for your rights in court. All conversations with a lawyer are confidential, which means they cannot say a word about what you’ve talked about to anyone unless you say it’s okay. Your lawyer will tell the judge what is in your best interest as well as what you want to have happen, even if those two things aren’t necessarily the same.
  • A Social Worker: This person is responsible for your well-being. They will decide where you will stay, make sure you have what you need, that you’re safe and protected, and will visit you every month to make sure everything is going well.
  • A Judge: The judge is the person who will be making all of the final decisions in your case regarding your future, including whether you will be going home and what types of visitation rights your parents will receive. They will also make sure that your social worker is doing their job correctly.
  • A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): This is someone who volunteers to work with children who are in a dependency case. They look out for your best interests and give their opinion to the court on how they feel everything is going for you.

And don’t forget. Just because you’re a child doesn’t mean you don’t have rights in a juvenile dependency case. You have the right to:

  • Have a support person present when being interviewed by a social worker.
  • Attend court hearings. If you are 10 or older, your lawyer or social worker must tell you when the court date is and ask if you’d like to attend.
  • Be a part of your case plan. If you’re 12 or older and have been taken away from your parents, you have the right to go over your case plan with your social worker, sign it and have a copy of it. You also have the right to be told about any changes being made to the plan.
  • Remain at your school.
  • Visit with your siblings and other relatives.

De Facto Parents

Someone the juvenile court has found to have assumed the role of a parent on a day-to-day basis for a substantial time, and has fulfilled all of the dependent child’s needs (such as food, shelter, clothing and affection) can file to become a de facto parent. When the judge declares someone a de facto parent, they earn the right to:

  • Be present at any and all dependency hearings.
  • Be represented by a lawyer, either one appointed by the court or of their own choosing.
  • Present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
  • Participate in disposition and other hearings.
  • Appeal a judge’s decision.

A de factor parent does not have the right to:

  • Attorney fees, unless the court provides and pays for an attorney in special circumstances.
  • Ask for a rehearing should you be unhappy with the judge’s decision.

To apply to be a de facto parent, you must fill out a De Facto Parent Request (Form JV-295) and a De Facto Parent Statement (Form JV-296), in which you state your case for what you have done for the child and why you feel you should become the child’s de facto parent. The juvenile court judge will take everything into account, as well as what they believe to be in the child’s best interest.

Infant Safe Haven

Occasionally, pregnant women make a last-minute decision that they cannot take care a child, or, in some rare cases, do not realize they are pregnant until they give birth. In such circumstances, the mother can relinquish the infant at a safe-surrender site — a location designated by the board of supervisors or a location within a hospital designated to become responsible for accepting physical custody of an infant. The child must be younger than 72 hours old and may only be surrendered by the birth parent(s) or legal guardian. No person who leaves a child at a safe haven surrender site can be prosecuted for abandonment, negligence, desertion or failure to provide for their child, and all information collected by the surrender site via a medical questionnaire will remain confidential and cannot be disclosed to any child service representative.

If the parent or person who surrendered the child returns to claim the child prior to social services filing a dependency petition in court, the safe haven site will either return the child to the parent or contact social services if they feel the parent will not adequately care for the child. If the parent or legal guardian returns within 14 days of social services filing the dependency petition, an investigation into the circumstances will be conducted. If social services feel the child may return home, they will ask the court to dismiss the petition for dependency and ask the child to be returned to the parent.

King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc. knows every situation is different and that both children and adults have rights. If you are a child who is being abused or a parent who has been accused of child abuse or neglect, or you would like to learn more about juvenile dependency, child and parent rights, how to become a de facto parent, and what to expect when going to court, contact us for a consultation.

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