About Dependency Court in California

A graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the University of British Columbia, Terry Chucas is an experienced family law attorney. Terry Chucas runs a law firm in San Diego, California, that focuses on dependency court appeals.

In California, dependency courts handle cases involving children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. These cases often start with a report to the police or a social worker that a parent is abusing or not taking proper care of their child. When a report of child neglect or abuse is made, a social worker investigates the claim. During the investigation, the social worker assesses the home environment and talks to the child and people who interact with the family.

If the investigation finds the claims of child abuse to be true, the social worker files a petition asking the dependency court to open a case to protect the child. If the social worker thinks the child is in immediate danger, the court can remove the child from the home.

If the court removes the child, the parents must file a petition within two days. During that time, the social worker places the child in a foster home, in the home of the other parent (if the parents are separated), or in the home of another relative.

After parents file the petition, the social worker tells the parents when the first hearing will take place in the dependency court. If the parents cannot afford a lawyer, the judge will appoint one for them in the first hearing.