When a case is overseen by the Juvenile Court, your child will be assigned a “minor’s attorney.” You also have the right to have an attorney advise and represent you at all court hearings, but it is not required.
Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers is a nonprofit organization that represents parents in juvenile dependency proceedings in Los Angeles County. The court can appoint a LADL lawyer at your request, or you may hire your own attorney.
Children’s Law Center of California represents minors in juvenile dependency proceedings in Los Angeles County.
Know Your Rights
Even if your child is in DCFS custody while your case is open, you are still their parent in the eyes of the law, and you maintain parental rights.
You have the right to an interpreter in court if you do not understand English. Learn more about DCFS Immigration Policy.
If you become incarcerated at any point, always keep in touch with your social worker and attorney. Keep them advised of your housing location and programs you are in while incarcerated and your release date. Learn more about the Incarcerated Parents Program.
Each court hearing has a different purpose. The purpose of the Juvenile Dependency Court is to keep children safe and help families create a safe home for their children.
1. Initial Petition Hearing
One day after the social worker files the petition, the Initial Petition Hearing is held. This is the first time that the Juvenile Court will consider your child’s case.
If you do not attend this or any of the court hearings, the court may go ahead without you and you will miss the chance to be heard!
You will be informed of the date, time and place of the hearing by the DCFS social worker assigned to your case, and the social worker from Court (IDC). You will also be asked to provide the court with your permanent mailing address so that you may receive notice of the date, time and place of all future court hearings.
Some things to expect at the initial petition hearing:
Before the hearing begins, you will be given a copy of the petition. You will have an opportunity to read it and ask your attorney questions about its allegations.
During the hearing you will be asked if the petition is true or if you deny it. You may admit or deny the allegations of the petition.
Note: Admit is a legal word. If you admit to the allegations of the petition, you are telling the court they are true. Deny is a legal word. You are telling the court that the allegations of the petition are not true.
Your child’s case worker will have prepared a report recommending where your child should live.
If you agree with the case worker’s recommendation, the court will move forward with that recommendation. If you do not agree with the recommendation, your case will be continued for a disposition hearing, to determine appropriate placement.
Note: Agreeing or disagreeing with the case worker’s recommendation does not necessarily mean that your child will be placed in out-of-home care.
If you deny the statements in the petition, your case will be set for a jurisdiction hearing.
There, the court will decide if some or the entire petition is true. If the court finds the petition not true, the case will be dismissed and your child will be returned to you. If the court finds the petition true, the case will be set for a disposition hearing.
2. Disposition Hearing & Ruling
At the disposition hearing, the court will consider a written report from the case worker and any other evidence and argument offered by any party. You are entitled to receive and read the written report before the hearing is conducted.
The court will then decide if your child should remain in/return to your home, the home of the other parent, or be placed in the home of a relative, a foster home or a home providing specially needed help.
At that point, your case will fall into one of two categories:
Your child will remain at home with one or both parents, however you may be court-mandated to complete required trainings or services. DCFS will work with you to develop a prevention plan and connect you with support services.
Your child will be temporarily placed out-of-home, away from one or both parents, either in foster care or with a relative caregiver. DCFS will then work with you to develop a reunification plan and connect you with services so that you may work toward being reunited with your child.
It is important to remember that if you have an open investigation with DCFS, you have the right to talk with the social worker assigned to your case, your attorney, or our Parent Partners at any time. Navigating this process can be stressful, and confusing, and they can be a useful resource.
3. Review Hearings
Review hearings will be scheduled every 6 months. Review hearings allow the court the opportunity to acknowledge your hard work, review your compliance with court orders and determine if children who are in placement can safely return home. If your children are in your home, the court may determine when your dependency case can be closed.
DCFS will mail you a copy of the report and notice for every review hearing. It is important to always provide the Court and DCFS with your current mailing address.
4. Rehearing/Appellate Rights
You have the right to request a rehearing regarding any orders made by a referee or commissioner. Whether a judge, commissioner, or referee heard your case, you have the right to have the Court of Appeal review certain orders. You should consult with your attorney regarding this right.
Records related to the abuse or neglect of minors generated by DCFS and the Juvenile Court are confidential.
Parents, current and former and foster youth, their attorneys, and others who are eligible may request copies of case records.
Request Case Records