Skip to main content
Skip to main content.

Dependency Hearings

Dependency Hearings

Click here for a chart (which opens in a new window) to follow as you read.

What happens at the first hearing?

  1. The first hearing is called the Detention Hearing. At this hearing:
  • The Court gives the parents a notice about what is going on (the “proceedings”).
  • The parents get a copy of the petition and any other papers for the case.
  • The Court tells the parents what can happen in a dependency case.
  • The lawyers for both sides (called “parties”) introduce themselves to the Court.
  • The Court writes down the names of the child’s relatives, if possible.
  • The Court confirms who the parents of the child are, if possible. This is called Parentage.

The Court decides if the child should stay with a parent or live somewhere else for now.

If the Court takes the child away from a parent, it can make visitation orders so the parent can see the child. The court will also tell the parents where they can get help so the child can come back to them.

The Court also decides if the Department of Family and Children’s Services made a "reasonable effort" to keep the child with the parents.

What happens at the Jurisdiction Hearing?

At the Jurisdictional Hearing the Court decides if what the petition says is true. The Court has three ways to do this: Before the judge accepts an admission or submission, the Court has to be sure the parents want to give up (waive) their right to a trial. This means they give up the right to: see, hear and question witnesses, bring their own witnesses, testify or stay silent.

  • The parents or guardians admit the petition is true.
  • The parents or guardians don’t disagree with the petition (called “submission”).
  • The parents or guardians dispute, or contest the petition. Both sides give the Court evidence at a hearing. Then, the court finds the petition to be true or not.
  • What happens at the Disposition Hearing?
  • If the Court decides the petition is true, it will say what should happen with the child. The judge can:

    The Court won’t let the parents try family reunification services if:

    There are other reasons the Court can skip family reunification services and order a permanent plan for the child.

    • Dismiss the case.
    • Let the child live with a parent on “family maintenance”. This means that a social worker and the court supervise the child.
    • Take the child away from the parents and send to live with a relative, foster parent or group home and offer the parents family reunification services.
    • Take the child away from the parents and not offer family reunification services to get their child back. There will be a hearing in 120 days to decide where the child will live permanently.
    • The child or a brother or sister has been seriously abused or killed.
    • The parent had another child taken away by the court.
    • The parents tried family reunification services and they were canceled.
    • The parents have serious drug problems that aren’t being treated.

What is a 6-month review hearing?

This hearing lets the Court see:

(1) How the child is doing, and
(2) How the parents are doing with the services the court ordered.

If the child lives with a parent, the Court can:

(1) Dismiss the case, or
(2) Keep supervising the child with family maintenance.

If the child doesn’t live at home, the Court can

(1) Give the child back to a parent. The family will stay with family maintenance, or
(2) Keep the child out of the house and order family reunification services.

But, if the child was under three years old when the Court took them away from the parents, the Court can stop family reunification services. This happens if the parents don’t participate or get better in treatment programs.

What happens at a 12-month review hearing?

At this hearing the Court decides if the child will go back to the parents. If not, the Court will cancel the services so the child can get a permanent plan. The Court will set a hearing to decide a permanent plan for the child.

The Court can let the family reunification services go on for another six months if there’s a good chance that the child will then go back to live with a parent.

What happens at an 18-month review hearing?

At this hearing, the Court decides if the child will go back to the parents. If not, the judge will cancel family reunification services. The Court will have a hearing to decide a permanent plan for the child.

What happens at other review hearings?

The Court can have other hearings to:

  • Check up on the child,
  • To see how the social worker is working with the family, or
  • To see how the parents are doing with their case plan.

What happens at an Implementation Hearing (W & I 366.26)?

At this hearing, the court makes a permanent plan for the child. The plans can be:

The most permanent plan for the child is adoption. The second choice is legal guardianship. The last choice permanent plan is long-term placement. This is the least likely to give the child a permanent home.

  • End the parents’ rights so the child can be adopted,
  • Name a legal guardian for the child, or
  • Put the child with a relative, foster parent or in a group home for a long time

How can it end?

There are different ways for a dependency case to end:

In some cases you have to file a form called “extraordinary writ to the Court of Appeals”. Talk to your lawyer about this.

  • Case is dismissed. Court makes custody orders
  • Adoption
  • Concurrent planning
  • Appeals/Writs
  • Case is dismissed. Court makes custody orders:
    If the child lives with a parent and the Court doesn’t need to supervise the child anymore, it can dismiss the case. It will make juvenile court custody orders. These are like the custody and visitation from family court judges.
    If there is a disagreement about these orders later on, you can go to the Family Justice Center Courthouse where your order was filed and mediate the disagreement or have a Family Court Judge hear your problem.
  • Adoption:
    Adoption hearings are in the Dependency Court. They are for children whose parents lost their rights and who live in adoptive homes.
  • Concurrent planning:
    Concurrent planning means that two plans are happening at the same time. It’s very important to find a permanent home for a child as soon as possible. So, when a child is taken from the parents, the social service agency can put children in homes that want to adopt them. If the child can’t go back to live with the parents after a certain amount of time, the child is already in a permanent home.
  • Appeals/Writs:
    You can appeal a judge’s decision if you fought (or “contested”) the petition. Talk to your lawyer about how to file an appeal.

Can a minor have both a Juvenile Justice case and a Dependency case at the same time ("dual status")?

Sometimes children have court cases that fall under both Juvenile Dependency and Juvenile Justice (Welfare and Institutions Code 300 and Code 602 ). When that happens, together the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) and the Juvenile Probation Department make a recommendation to Juvenile Court, saying which type of case, or status, would be best for the minor and for the protection of society.

If the Court picks just one type of case, that case will then be heard in either Juvenile Justice or Dependency Court, depending on the Court’s decision. The other case will be dismissed.

Sometimes a minor will have both types of cases at the same time. This is called “dual status.” For dual status cases, the Juvenile Justice case takes place first, and the Dependency case is put on hold (suspended).

When the Juvenile Justice case is completely finished – including any confinement time (time in Juvenile Hall, etc.) or probation time – then the Dependency case will be heard.

For more information see the Dual Status Protocol.