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An Overview of Juvenile Dependency Court

There are many reasons why you might find yourself at the Juvenile Dependency Court in California and they aren’t all negative reasons. Many people can jump to conclusions or assume the worst when they receive a petition from the courts but the Juvenile Dependency Court simply hears cases involving children who have been, or are in immediate danger of, abuse, neglect, injury or abandonment.

The Scope of the Juvenile Dependency Court 

The court is concerned with making sure that all children brought before the court are safe and protected. If the children are in any immediate danger then the court is obligated to intervene on the child’s behalf. Immediate danger can be interpreted in different ways, but generally speaking it is when there is a clear and present risk that a child will be physically injured or neglected in a way as to endanger the child. The main and obvious risk is physical injury that is likely to occur presently.

With this objective in mind, the goals of the Juvenile Dependency court are to:

·     Preserve the family structure where possible and provide for the physical and emotional well-being of any affected children

·     Identify issues and risks that lead to the removal of children from their homes

·     Relocate children by placing them in safe environments with relatives or foster care families when children are removed due to risk

·     Find permanent homes either through adoption, guardianship or long-term foster care when children cannot be returned to their parents

·     Ensure that all proceedings and records are kept confidential for the child’s privacy and future protection

How Does a Juvenile Dependency Case Start? 

Juvenile Dependency cases start when a petition is filed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) under the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 300. This may have come about through an anonymous allegation, a school reporting process or, as is normally the situation, through existing contact with the DCFS.

In short, the petition will allege that there is actual or immediate danger to the child and the courts will determine if removal is necessary. If the safety of the child cannot be assured by the family, the child can be removed from the parents’ custody and placed in protective custody. It is for the court to determine how the child’s safety can be assured and an experienced attorney would be able to explain to a petitioned parent how they can demonstrate safety.

Disputes between relevant parties at hearings can add further stress to both the parents and children as they become adversaries. For the benefit of the children and to avoid unnecessary legal action, early resolution of these cases in mediation is advised in order to:

·     Relieve family upset

·     Allow for an efficient resolution

·     Minimize disruption to the child’s life

The Law Office of Landon C. Villavaso Is Here to Help

In matters of Juvenile Dependency, the burden of proof to physically remove a child from a home is very low; and, many parents feel helpless and misled by social workers who are unwilling or unavailable to provide meaningful concrete answers to their questions. As an experienced advocate of parental rights, Mr. Villavaso can calm your fears by providing answers to those questions and explaining the relationship between the legal system and the bureaucracy that escalate a referral of child abuse or neglect to a petition for the removal of a child. In his practice, Mr. Villavaso has successfully counseled clients to prevent the removal of a child from a home before a petition was filed in court and persuasively argued the safe return of a child to their parent on the day the petition was filed. However, when return of a child is prohibited by court order, Mr. Villavaso has been successful at trial handling the most complicated legal and factual scenarios and exhausted every possibility through intense investigation and passionate argument to achieve the stated goal of his clients.

We invite you to call us today at (949) 257-5188 to learn more about how we can help you and your children.

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