What Is Juvenile Dependency Law?
This area of juvenile law is geared toward dealing with situations in which children have been removed from a parent's care by a social worker or the Department of Social Services for a variety of reasons and is declared a dependent of the court. The Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez is dedicated to assisting individuals in seeking to regain custody of their children.

In many cases, if child neglect or abuse is suspected, a social worker from the Department of Social Services or other child protective organizations may come into the home and remove the child or children as a precautionary measure. We represent parents in dependency court who are trying to get their children back from protective custody. Our firm also represents relatives who are trying to have children placed in their care in matters where the children are in the care of non-relatives.

What Happens When You Go to Court?
If there is suspected abuse or neglect in the home, the law allows law enforcement of an agent of CPS to remove a child from the home and keep the child out of the home for up to 72 hours. This is the initial stage known as “Detention”.

Detention Hearing:
At the Detention hearing, the court must order the release of the child to his or her parent unless the court finds that there are legal grounds to keep the child detained, or out of the parents’ care and custody.

Jurisdiction Hearing:
Approximately 15 days after the Detention hearing takes place, the Jurisdiction hearing occurs. At the Jurisdiction hearing, the court must order that the child be returned to his or her parent unless the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the petition is found true and that the child remain a dependent of the court.

Disposition Hearing:
A Disposition hearing takes place approximately 10 days after the Jurisdiction hearing. At this stage, the court determines temporary placement of the child. In determining placement, the court considers the detriment to the child in placement. Where a relative placement is requested, the Department of Social Services will consider the placement for the child. At this point of the proceeding, the Department must establish that there is clear and convincing evidence of substantial risk of danger to the child and that the child cannot be returned due to the evidence presented.

Six Month Review Hearing:
At the six-month hearing, the minor shall be returned to the parents unless there is a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial risk to the minor’s physical or emotional well-being , or when the parents have failed to participate in court ordered services.

If the child is three years of age or under, the parents have six months from the date the child entered foster care to complete court ordered services.

Twelve Month Hearing:
At the twelve month hearing, which generally takes place one year from the Disposition hearing, the child shall be returned to the parents unless there is a substantial risk to the minor's physical or emotional well-being or when the parents have failed to participate regularly in any Court ordered treatment programs. For a child who, on the date of initial removal is three years of age or older, the parents have twelve months from the date the child entered foster care to complete court ordered services

Eighteen Month Hearing:
At the 18 month hearing, the minor shall be returned to the parents unless there is a substantial risk to the Minor’s physical or emotional well being or where the parents have failed to participate regularly in court Ordered treatment.

Selection and Implementation Hearing:
At this hearing, which takes place approximately 120 days from the hearing to terminate reunification services, the court will terminate parental rights and order adoption, guardianship, or long term foster care unless it would be detrimental to the child.