Social workers came to your home and told you that you are suspected of neglecting or abusing your child. Your child is taken from your care and your case is going to the child dependency court. What happens now?
The Child Dependency Process
The child dependency court process is extremely complicated and your case could take many months to complete. The first step in that process is your initial child dependency hearing. So what exactly should you expect at your first child dependency hearing?
Initial Detention Hearing
After an emergency responder from Social Services decides to remove your child from your care, he or she may file a petition with the court alleging that you abused or neglected the child within 48 hours. Once the petition is filed, the court will set a detention hearing either the same day or the next court day.
At the detention hearing, the court will determine whether your child will be:
- Returned to your custody
- Placed in the custody of a family member or relative; or
- Placed in temporary foster care
A judge will look at all of the facts of the case to determine what will be in the child’s best interest.
How to Prepare for the Detention Hearing
Most parents want their child to be returned to their custody at the detention hearing. In order to have the best chance at having your child returned to your care, you should hire an experienced child dependency lawyer. Your lawyer will advocate for you in court and attempt to show that your child will not be at risk of harm if he or she is released to your care.
If the court orders that the child be removed from your custody, you need to be prepared to work with the court and social workers to place your child in a comfortable, familiar environment. Discuss with the social workers any of your family members who you would want to take care of your child. Not only will this be better for your child, you will likely have more access to your child while your dependency case is pending.
Additional Hearings in a Child Dependency Case
If the judge rules that your child should be removed from your care at the detention hearing, it is just the start of your case. After the detention hearing, a jurisdiction hearing will be scheduled.
At the jurisdiction hearing, you and your lawyer will have a chance to respond to the allegations of abuse or neglect against you. If the court finds there isn’t sufficient proof that the allegations are true, your child could be returned to your custody. If the court believes that some or all of the allegations are true, a disposition hearing will be scheduled to take place.
The purpose of the disposition hearing is for the court to review all of the evidence in your case and make a plan regarding the custody of your child. This “reunification plan” is aimed at helping you change the behavior that caused your child to be removed from your care in the first place. The reunification plan will lay out specific steps to take in order to have your child returned to your care.
You will have a six-month review hearing (and 12-month review hearing, if necessary) for the court to review whether you have followed the reunification plan. If you have, your child could then be returned to your care. However, if not, a permanency hearing will take place where the court will determine a permanent arrangement for your child that does not involve returning him or her to your custody.
Your child could be put up for adoption or sent to live in a foster home if you are involved in a child dependency matter. That is why you need to speak to a lawyer immediately if social workers suspect you committed child abuse or neglect.
Contact Our Experienced Child Dependency Attorneys Today
A child dependency hearing is a serious matter, and you should have an experienced child dependency lawyer representing you if you are accused of child abuse or neglect. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled lawyers have over 35 years of experience successfully reuiniting our clients with their children. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Los Angeles, West Covina, Torrance and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich child dependency attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Call us now at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.