DEPENDENCY COURT PROCESS

In most cases, a dependency case comes to court shortly after a child has been removed from their home by the police or a social worker. The police or social worker may remove a child from their home if they have a reason to believe that there is an imminent risk of harm to the child.

The best outcomes for foster children occur when everyone involved in the child's care and supervision works together using all of the legal tools available to them. Too often problems in a child's case are not identified and communicated effectively to the Juvenile Court or the responsible agencies. The main participants in the Juvenile Court process are the Juvenile Court, county child welfare agencies, parents, children, foster family agencies, caregivers, and attorneys.

Participants Involved in Juvenile Dependency Case

For specific information, please click on the relevant topic:

Dependency Timeline

The timelines that are a part of our dependency statutes recognize the importance of a child’s sense of time, the central role of the young child’s caregiver relationship that drives the child’s growth and development, and determines the ultimate structure of the child's brain. To this end, the legislature has enacted shorter timelines for children under three years old. For children under three at the time of removal, the statutory time limit on renunciation services for parent is six months from the date of disposition unless the parent has made substantial progress and the court finds the child may be returned to a safe home by the date of the 12 month review hearing or reasonable services have not been provided to the parents. For more information on this, please see the 6-Month Review Hearing section below.

Respecting the time lines and honoring the child’s caregiver relationship is critical to the health and safety of the developing child.

The following chart illustrates the dependency hearing proceedings:

 

Juvenile Dependency Proceedings

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Appellate Review of Dependency Court Orders

An appeal is a request for review of a lower court's decision by a higher court.  Generally speaking, an appeal is based on an argument that a legal error was made by the trial court.  An appeal is not a retrial.  New evidence will not be permitted and the appellate court will not reassess conflicting evidence from the trial court.

In child dependency cases, the first appealable order is the dispositional order.  Every order after disposition is appealable (by following the procedures for a general appeal), with two exceptions.  The first exception is a challenge to an order setting a “.26 hearing (also known as Welfare and Institutions section 366.26 hearing to terminate parental rights).”  The second exception is a challenge to a placement order made post-termination of parental rights (post “.26”).  In both instances, a challenge must be made via writ petition NOT as a general appeal.

The procedure for filing your appeal or writ petition is dependent on the type of order you are challenging in the higher court.  In either case, YOU MUST FILE A TIMELY NOTICE either by filing a Notice of Appeal (JV-800) or a Notice of Intent to File a Writ Petition (JV-820 or JV-822). 
Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.26(l) and 366.28(b); California Rules of Court 8.450 et seq., 8.454, 8.456

It is crucial that you follow the correct procedure for filing your appeal or writ and preserve your rights to challenge the order.  This section outlines the procedures for both appellate and writ processes.  In order to determine which procedure to follow, please refer to the following chart for guidance:

 

Appointed Counsel On Appeal (not available for writ review)

People who have court-appointed counsel can get appointed counsel on appeal.  A person desiring appointed appellate counsel should write “Appointment of Appellate Counsel Requested” on their Notice of Appeal.  They will then be contacted by the district’s appellate project to discuss their eligibility for appointment of appellate counsel.  Note:  This only applies to appeals.  In those cases in which a writ petition must be filed, the writ petition must be filed by trial court counsel.

General Appeals in Dependency Cases

There are strict timelines and procedures to follow when appealing an order from dependency court in California. Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 395, the dispositional order in a dependency proceeding is appealable as a judgment and every post-dispositional order is directly appealable as an “order after judgment.”  Thus, the first appealable order in the dependency process is the dispositional order.  Every order after disposition, including orders relating to discovery, are considered final and appealable except in two instances: (1) an order setting a .26 hearing and (2) a placement order made post .26 (these orders are challenged via writ petition, please see Writ section below for more details). 

For additional information regarding the general appeals process please click on relevant tab:

Orders Terminating Parental Rights and All Appealable Orders Issued by Juvenile Courts in Orange, Imperial, and San Diego Counties

The time lines for appealing all orders terminating parental rights are more stringent than for generic appeals.  The reason for the stricter procedural timelines is so that the reviewing court can decide the appeal within 250 days after the notice of appeal is filed.  These more stringent time lines also apply to all dependency appeals in Orange, Imperial, and San Diego counties and may so apply in other counties by local rules.
California Rule of Court 8.416

 

Challenges Via Writ Petition

A writ petition is another way in which you challenge and seek further review of dependency court orders.  Certain court orders are considered not immediately appealable (as a general appeal) and review of such orders are done by way of writ.  For example, detention orders and jurisdictional findings that a minor is a person described in Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 are not immediately appealable.  You are only able to seek immediate review of these orders by writ petition.  However, orders based on those findings may be appealed. 
See Jeff M. v. Superior Court (1997) 56 Cal. App. 4th 1238; Melinda K. v. Superior Court (2004) 116 Cal. App. 4th 1147, 1153.

Most Common Types of Orders that Must be Reviewed via Writ Petition

For specific information, please find the relevant order from which you seek writ review:

Order Denying or Terminating Reunification Services (where the order also includes an order setting a .26 hearing) 

If the court has ordered a hearing to be set pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.26 (also referred to as “.26 hearing”), that order usually also terminates or denies terminates reunification services and is considered a final order.  To get an appellate court to review that order, the parent affected by that order must first file a writ petition. Failure to file a writ petition precludes raising any issues in a later appeal of a termination of parental rights that arose at the hearing at which the .26 hearing was set. 
California Rule of Court 8.452

For additional information regarding writ review of this order, please click on the relevant tab:

Placement Decisions made after Parental Rights are Terminated (post .26 hearing)

California Rules of Court 8.456 and 8.490 govern the writ petitions to review post termination placement orders under Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.28.  To avoid delays caused by appeals, a placement decision following termination of parental rights is not appealable. Appellate review is only available if the person objecting to the order files a timely petition for extraordinary writ.   

For additional information regarding writ review of this order, please click on the relevant tab:

Petitions that Can be Done at Any Time in the Case

For specific information, please click on the relevant topic:

Commonly Used Juvenile Dependency Court Forms

Type of Form

JV-180 Request to Change Court Order Form

For additional information on JV-180 Form, click here

When To File

Anyone can file a request to change an existing court order. File the JV-180 when:

  1. An immediate hearing is required; and
  2. Circumstances have changed or there is new evidence (evidence that you can attach to your form); and
  3. It is in the child’s best interests to modify a previous order.

The JV-180 Form is also appropriate when you seek visits, placement, or contact with a dependent sibling in foster care, or on behalf of a child who has a sibling in foster care.

JV-285  Relative Information Form

For additional information on JV-285 Form, click here

Anytime a relative wishes to provide information about the child to the court.

JV-295 De Facto Parent Request Form

For additional information on JV-295 Form, click here

A current or former caregiver is child's psychological patient may file to obtain party status.

JV-290 Caregiver Information Form

For additional information on JV-290 Form, click here

Any individual or agency caring for a foster child may file this form in order to provide information about the foster child to the court at review hearings (eg. 6,12,18 or 24 month review hearings)

JV-321 Request For Prospective Adoptive Parent Designation,
Notice, and Order Form

For additional information on JV-321 Form, click here

  1. The .26 Hearing date has been set
  2. The child has lived with you for at least six months
  3. You must currently express a commitment to adopt
  4. You must have taken at least ONE "step to facilitate the adoption process."

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