Assume you won your case at the dispositional hearing, the case will most likely be continued for a 6 month review pursuant to WIC 364.
During this period of time, a new social worker is assigned to your case; a family maintenance worker. As the name sounds, this social worker’s job will be to visit you and your children, at least one time per month, and report your progress back to the court at the end of 6 months.
This worker, if s/he notices any problems, can address the family issues by referring the family to some sort of “family maintenance” service such as counseling or parenting classes.
This family maintenance worker also has the ability to file a new case/petition with the court and remove the children from the parents’ custody if s/he believes that the children need protection.
If such a case is filed, the process mentioned above in earlier chapters just begins again.
The best thing that could probably happen during this period is for the social worker to recommend, at the 6 month review date, that the case to be closed. If such is the recommendation, the social worker and the juvenile court is out of your life.
If the social worker does not recommend the case to be closed, you are entitled to have a trial to prove that the case should be closed. More specifically, if you have a trial, the social worker has to prove that the case should remain open. These types of cases were not originally designed to go on forever. They were designed to address a family problem, and then close. Ongoing custody and visitation issues should be handled by the Family Law Courts, under the Family Code.
The trial you are entitled to at this point is much like described in earlier chapters, but I will mention it again since it is extremely important for you to be familiar with the concepts of a “trial”. (Refer to the process “as described on page 28 – “What Happens at the Trial”
- Typically, the trial starts out with the court asking the County Counsel, the social worker’s attorney, if they have any documentation to offer into evidence. Most of the time, this consists of the social worker’s reports submitted thus far in the case.
- The court then asks defense counsel if there is any objection to the reports being admitted into evidence.
- Then the county counsel calls witnesses, after which each attorney has a chance to cross-examine the witnesses, as they are called.
- Then the minor’s counsel goes through the same steps with documentary evidence and witnesses, and his/her witnesses are cross-examined.
- Then the parents’ attorneys go through the same steps with documentary evidence and witnesses, and his/her witnesses are cross-examined.
- Then the social worker and her attorney may call “rebuttal” witnesses, to contradict the evidence and the witnesses the parents have presented.
- After all of this, the attorneys may give the judge closing arguments. Many times, the judge does not want to hear closing arguments, but it’s up to each individual judge.
- I should mention at this point that the judge may ask questions of any witness, during the proceedings.
- Where the minor’s attorney is against the parents, time and consideration should be taken as to how the parents’ attorney will deal with this situation. The possibilities are almost endless; but should be carefully discussed with your attorney.
If the case is closed at this point, generally, the court will issue a Family Law Custody and Visitation Order, which is also filed with the Family Law Court in your county. The purpose of this order is to give the parents a starting point for any future custody and visitation disputes.
You are entitled to have a trial or hearing on what this closing order should say and provide. This could be extremely important in the future; and will effect computations of eventual child and/or spousal support.
If an order is issued by the Juvenile Court, any parent can go to the Family Law Court in order to change or modify this order. Generally, there are legal requirements to be met, but that discussion is beyond this book. If you need information, contact a competent Family Law attorney, or contact me.
888 888 6582.
The second thing which could happen at the six month review is the WIC 366.21(e) hearing. This is the six month hearing that happens if the children weren’t returned to your custody at the dispositional hearing.
During this period, you are assigned a social worker called a “Family Reunification” worker (FR Worker). It is supposed to be his/her job to reunify the parents with the children.