Juvenile Dependency Lawyer & CPS in San Diego
If you are a parent or family member that has found yourself engaged in a juvenile dependency case, we at the Law Office of Kevin Lemieux know this can be a frightening place, especially if you do not understand how the system works. Child Welfare Services may be trying to remove your child from your custody, and you need an experienced juvenile dependency lawyer in San Diego to obtain custody of your child.
Navigating the San Diego Juvenile Dependency System
Juvenile Dependency cases in San Diego or heard in Juvenile Court, which is a branch of the Superior Court of the State of California. In San Diego, there is a separate Juvenile Courthouse in Kearny Mesa, and individual courtrooms in East County (El Cajon) and North County (Vista) that hear Juvenile Dependency matters.
Dependency Court hears cases where there is an accusation of child abuse or neglect. If your child has been removed by a San Diego County social worker from Child Welfare Services (CWS), formerly known as Child Protective Services (CPS), then you will have a dependency case in one of these courtrooms. Also, if a social worker wants to remove your child, but requires the court’s permission, you will also have a case in Dependency Court.
The stated purpose of CWS is the protection of children. But like all government bureaucracies, the system is far from perfect. It is essential that you obtain expert legal advice and representation from a San Diego Juvenile Dependency lawyer if you find yourself in Dependency Court.
San Diego Juvenile Dependency Lawyers for Parents
Public Juvenile Dependency Lawyers in San Diego – these are attorneys appointed by the court to represent you. Most of these attorneys are excellent, professional lawyers who can assist you through your case. They are not free, however, you will be sent a bill from the County of San Diego for their services. Another disadvantage is that these lawyers are often underpaid and overworked, through no fault of their own.
Private Juvenile Dependency Lawyers in San Diego – these are attorneys who you hire privately to represent you in court. There are advantages to hiring a private lawyer, including time. Your private attorney will usually have more time to spend with you , and on your case. This is because you are paying them! Also, private lawyers control their own caseloads, so if they don’t have the time to spend, they shouldn’t take your case.
A few things to look for when hiring a private juvenile dependency lawyer in San Diego:
- Is the lawyer a Certified Specialist in Child Welfare Law? These lawyers have the letters CWLS after their name and this indicates that they are Child Welfare Law Specialists, like Kevin Lemieux, who has taken and passed a speciality exam and certified by the California State Bar as an expert in the field. This type of qualification is unparalleled when it comes to experience in Dependency Court.
- Is the lawyer certified to practice in dependency court at all? This is a separate certification, unrelated to the CWLS above, that indicates the Juvenile Presiding Judge has determined that the lawyer is competent in Dependency Law. Juvenile court is very different from adult criminal court and family court. The basic rules of evidence are different in Juvenile Court, and the court procedure is completely different as well. Managing attorney Kevin Lemieux has significant juvenile court experience, and this can make a tremendous difference in your case.
- Juvenile Dependency cases have a much higher trial rate than criminal defense, family, or civil cases. These cases simply don’t settle as often. It is essential that you find a lawyer, like Kevin Lemieux, with vast trial experience.
Juvenile Dependency Lawyers for Children
All attorneys representing children in Dependency Court must be public attorneys appointed by the court, pursuant to state law. You are not allowed to hire a private attorney for your child.
Juvenile Court Terminology
Child Welfare Services (CWS) is part of the Health and Human Services Agency. So in San Diego, when you hear the judge or court personnel refer to “The Agency” they are talking about the social worker and her organization.
- Petition – this is the blue sheet that you are served with at your first court hearing. It contains the legal allegations of abuse or neglect.
- Minor’s Counsel – this is the lawyer appointed to represent the child.
- CASA – this stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. This is an adult who is appointed to help the child, to be a friend or mentor, and report to the court on the child’s behalf. This person is not a lawyer.
- Case Plan – these are the steps the court will order a parent to take in order to reunify with a removed child. This plan is drafted by the social worker and typically includes various “services.”
- Services – These are the requirements in the case plan and typically include things like individual therapy, group therapy, drug treatment, psychological evaluation, and parenting courses
- Placement – this is where the child lives. Placement could be with a parent throughout the case, but that is rare in San Diego. Most Juvenile Dependency cases in San Diego begin with a foster care placement or relative placement.
- Foster Care or Foster Parent – This is a stranger who is specially licensed to care for children who are removed from their parents. If your child is placed in foster care, you do not get to know this person’s address. Some foster parents are hoping to adopt a child who does not reunify with their parents, and some foster parents are temporary placements only.
- Adoption – Adoption is legally changing a child’s parents. This is what typically happens when a parent fails to reunify with their children in a Dependency Case. This is the worst possible outcome for a parent, as all parent rights are terminated prior to adoption.
- Guardianship – Guardianship is an alternative to adoption in failed dependency cases. It is only allowed in certain circumstances, like when a child over the age of 12 objects to being adopted, or a relative with whom the child is placed refuses to adopt. The law provides that adoption is preferred over guardianship.
A Typical Life-Cycle of a Juvenile Dependency Case in San Diego
Here is a typical life-cycle of a San Diego Juvenile Dependency Case.
Managing Attorney Kevin Lemieux, with 17 years of trial experience, has represented hundreds of individuals and families, and received multiple certifications and awards. Mr. Lemieux is also a trial skills instructor at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, where he teaches and mentors other lawyers.
Call the Law Office of Kevin Lemieux today for a free consultation to speak with a qualified San Diego juvenile dependency lawyer.
Managing attorney Kevin Lemieux represents parents, grandparents, and caregivers in Juvenile Dependency Court. As a Certified Specialist in Child Welfare Law, credentials and experience are unmatched.
- Proud member of NACC
- Certified Specialist in Child Welfare Law.
Child Welfare cases are a minefield for attorneys that are not experienced in this particular area of law! The rules and procedures in Juvenile Court are different from those in Criminal and Civil Court. Here is a typical life-cycle of a San Diego Juvenile Dependency Case.
The law office of Kevin Lemieux can also represent children who have been accused of a crime in adult court or juvenile court.