Orange County Juvenile Dependency Lawyer

Helping You Defend Against Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect

Accusations that involve child neglect – or child abuse – are extremely frightening for anyone who is a parent. In many instances, parents are unsure of what they should do or where they should turn if they are faced with these types of allegations.
Fortunately, the experienced team at Moore Law for Children includes Orange County juvenile dependency lawyers and they are ready to assist you every step of the way. In every case, our goal is exactly the same: helping you retain or regain the full legal and physical custody of your child and fighting for both your family and your own legal rights. We will zealously represent your legal interests in court. Our goal is to help you achieve a result that is favorable to both you and your family.
For a confidential legal consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Orange County juvenile dependency lawyer, please give us a call at 949-336-7711 or contact us online to learn more.

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Defining a “Juvenile Dependency” Case

A juvenile dependency case arises in the State of California when the government accuses either a child’s parent – or their legal guardian – of some act of child neglect or abuse as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code section 300. In some instances, these allegations may arise if a person allegedly witnessed an act of child neglect or abuse or it was disclosed to them in any way, and they report their suspicions to either Social Services or a local police department. 

After receiving an abuse or neglect report, Social Services must act promptly by conducting the appropriate investigation. Once this investigation is complete, Social Services must decide whether it is necessary to remove the child from their home. If that happens, they can request a warrant to remove the child from a parent or legal guardian or file a petition with the Court.
At that point, the court will schedule a formal Detention Hearing, sometimes called an Initial Hearing. In cases where the court removes the child from their home, this Detention Hearing must occur within at least three days of the child’s removal date, however some of the. This time requirement excludes days when the California courts are not in session.

Can a Juvenile Dependency Case be Filed in Court Against Me?

Juvenile dependency cases can be filed against individuals in several circumstances, pursuant to the California Welfare and Institutions Code 300. Those conditions may include any of the following:
  • The child is at risk of sexual abuse, or someone has sexually abused the child previously and the parent or guardian has failed to protect the child from the abuse. 
  • The child is at risk of experiencing physical or emotional harm due to a parent or guardian’s neglect – sometimes resulting from a parent’s mental health issues, drug addiction, improper supervision, or improper medical care.
  • The child does not have anyone who can provide for their ongoing care and support.
  • The child risks suffering mental anguish or emotional abuse or has already suffered this type of abuse in the past.
  • There is a risk that the child has already suffered – or will likely suffer – serious physical harm, either intentionally or accidentally.
  • The child is at risk because a minor sibling is also at risk of any of the above. 

What Can Happen with My Child While Dependency Hearings Are Proceeding in the Courts?

During the time when dependency hearings are pending, California courts must determine whether there is a risk for the child to remain with the parent or legal guardian. If the child must be removed, the court will place a child in what it believes to be the best interests of the child under the circumstances, while prioritizing placement with relatives and family friends, and keeping siblings together. In some instances, the court can place the child in a foster home or with a close relative. In these types of scenarios, if your child is removed, we can take the necessary steps to help you reunite with your child. The court may allow a child to live with their guardian or parent at home. However, this arrangement may be subject to supervision by Social Services and a safety plan.

The Juvenile Dependency Investigation and Hearing Process in Orange County

The juvenile dependency investigation and hearing process can be extremely traumatic for anyone who has to go through it. Since the court process for juvenile dependency hearings is extremely complex, you want a lawyer on your side who can provide you with peace of mind while advocating for you and providing top-notch legal representation.

Social Services Investigation

There is no disputing that the juvenile dependency process is complex. The process begins with Social Services. When an individual contacts Social Services about an alleged incident of neglect or abuse, an investigation will begin, and a qualified social worker will begin to review the situation. After making their evaluation, the social worker will determine if the child is currently residing in a safe environment. If the social worker determines that the current environment is not safe for the child, they can take custody away from the parent or legal guardian. Obviously, this course of action can be an extremely painful experience.
During this process, it is extremely important that you have a knowledgeable Orange County juvenile dependency attorney representing you at every stage of the proceedings. At Moore Law for Children, we can zealously advocate for you to help you obtain the appropriate result.

Detention Hearing

Child dependency cases, the initial hearing, or detention hearing, determines at the outset whether the child should be removed from the parent or guardian’s home while the case is pending. Many times, the child has already been removed based on a removal warrant. If your child has been removed and you do not receive a copy of the hearing date and time promptly, you should contact the court immediately, especially if you recently changed your address. Moreover, you should show up to your hearing with legal counsel present.
During a detention hearing, the court will decide whether your child can return home with you or whether your child must remain under the care and supervision of Social Services. During this hearing, you have a right to be arraigned on the petition and admit or deny the pending abuse or neglect allegations against you. You should have experienced legal representation who can help you show the court that your child should reside in your home, and come up with a safety plan.
The judge will examine all of the facts and circumstances and make a determination whether there is prima facie evidence of the allegations. This is a low standard and the court need only find whether the allegations “on their face” create a substantial risk of harm. In cases where a court determines that the child should be detained from one or both parents, the court may place the child in a foster home, with a relative or close family friend, or with a non-custodial parent.
When you speak with your lawyer, you should tell them about any relatives who can provide care for your child in the event the court determines that your child cannot return home.

Jurisdiction/Disposition Hearing

Following the initial hearing, the court will set a jurisdiction and dispositional hearing. At this stage, the social services will conduct a full investigation into the allegations, present a report, and the court will determine whether the allegations ro true or not. At this hearing, you have the right to testify, call witnesses and cross-examine the social worker.
If the court finds any of the allegations to be true, then the court must hold a disposition hearing. Oftentimes, the jurisdiction and disposition hearings are held on the same day. At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine whether the child should be removed from one or both parents, or legal guardian. If the child is removed, the court will determine whether the parent or legal guardian is entitled to reunification services. In most cases, parents are eligible to reunite with the child upon satisfying certain requirements pursuant to a proposed reunification case plan including appropriately tailored services to remedy the issues that brought the case to court.

Review Hearings

If a reunification is ordered by the court, the law requires a report be prepared and a review hearing be held within six months from the date of the disposition. During this hearing, the court will determine the amount of progress you have made regarding the reunification plan. At each review hearing, the social services agency has the burden of showing a risk if the child were to be returned to the custody of the parent or legal guardian. Otherwise, the court must return the child. However, if the parents or guardians have not made sufficient progress, the court will set a further 12 -month review hearing. If, at the time of removal, the child is under 3 years of age or part of a sibling group that includes a child under 3 years of age, then the reunification period is limited to 6 months. If the child or children are 3 years or older at the time of removal, then a parent or legal guardian is entitled to 12 months from the time of initial removal. If the court determines that your child still cannot return home after 12 months, in some cases the court can extend the reunification period to 18 months or schedule a permanency hearing, at which time the court will determine a permanent residence for your child, and consider terminating parental rights. For example, the court may decide that your child should reside with a relative – or in foster care – on a permanent basis.

Call an Experienced Orange County Juvenile Dependency Lawyer about Your Legal Matter Today

Allegations of child abuse and neglect are always extremely serious. If you are currently pending an abuse or neglect charge, you should retain skilled legal representation in your case right away. A lawyer needs to have time to review the allegations with you and develop a plan of action for moving your case forward to a successful conclusion.
At Moore Law for Children, our legal team has the knowledge and skills necessary to help you achieve the most favorable result possible in your case and have your child return to you promptly. Together, we can examine the allegations against you and help you decide on the best course of action for your case.
For a confidential legal consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Orange County juvenile dependency lawyer, please call us at 949-336-7711 or contact us online today to learn more.

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Our only regret is not engaging Ms Moore sooner than we did. She called it early and correctly. Her legal acumen is top notch. Ms Moore cited law at the crux of the case and her passion for the subject matter took it to another level. She is an indefatigable ally. Through our case and the pursuit of justice under truth and law we also became great friends.
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