Juvenile Dependency in Arizona
What is a Dependency Petition?
A dependency petition is a legal document filed with the Juvenile Court, asserting that a child is in need of effective care and control for which their parents or guardians are not providing. In Arizona, these petitions are governed by statute A.R.S. 8-841 (read in full here.)
This legal process is initiated when concerns about child abuse or neglect are reported to the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and there is clear evidence of immediate danger to the child or children involved. The Juvenile Court and DCS play a pivotal role in overseeing the child’s care and the services provided to both the parents and the child. The ultimate goal is to reunite the family if it is safe and feasible to do so, however the court can also rule to terminate parental rights if it deems suitable.
When Is a Dependency Petition Filed?
Dependency petitions are typically filed in the following situations:
- Child Abuse or Neglect: When a child is subjected to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, is abandoned by their parents or guardians, when a parent or guardian is suffering from substance abuse, or when a parent or guardian is unable to provide suitable housing, food, or medical care.
- Child’s Behaviors: When a child is struggling in school or with mental health issues for which the parent or guardian is unable to manage.
- No Suitable Caregiver: In cases where there is no willing, capable, or living parent or guardian to provide proper care and control over the child.
The Dependency Process in Arizona
The process of dependency petitions in Arizona adheres to a structured legal framework. Here are the key stages involved:
- Filing the Petition: The Department of Child Safety (DCS) or any interested party may file a dependency petition in the Juvenile Court alleging that a child is dependent.
- Verification and Contents: The dependency petition must provide specific information, including the child’s details, the names and addresses of both parents and any guardian, a concise statement of facts supporting the dependency claim, and whether the child was taken into temporary custody.
- Service of Petition: After filing the petition, it is essential to serve it, along with a notice of the hearing, on the parents, guardians, the child’s attorney, and other relevant parties. This ensures that all involved parties are aware of the legal proceedings.
- Preliminary Orders: Upon filing the petition, the court may issue temporary orders as deemed necessary to ensure the safety and welfare of the child. This could include removing the child from their home if there is an imminent threat to their well-being.
- Dependency Court Process: Following the filing of a dependency petition, the court will schedule a pre-hearing conference and a preliminary protective hearing, where the parent can dispute their child’s removal from their home. Following this, is an entire series of court appearances and processes, which are outlined here.
- Duration of Dependency: A dependent child remains under the court’s control until the court declares that a parent is able to provide minimally adequate care for the child. Typically, the order of dependency lasts until the child turns 18 or until the court changes or dismisses the dependency order.
Involvement of the Department of Child Safety (DCS)
In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety (DCS) is usually the party that requests the state to file a dependency petition, particularly when abuse or neglect allegations arise.
A dependency petition must be filed within 72 hours of a child’s removal from their home for the dependency process to continue. This timeline is essential to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
The Role of Private Attorneys, and Rideout Law Group, in Your Dependency Case
Maintaining Your Rights with DCS
If you find yourself in a situation where a DCS worker visits your home, it’s essential to assert your rights. You have the right to fully cooperate with their investigation while also requesting the presence of your attorney during questioning. Your attorney can represent your interests throughout the entire process, ensuring that your rights and the well-being of your child are protected.
The Goal of Child/Parent Reunification
Dependency cases can permanently terminate your parental rights and remove your child from your care. While court-appointed counsel may be an option, they are often stretched thin and may not provide the dedicated attention your case deserves. Moreover, very few private attorneys have in-depth familiarity and experience with juvenile dependency cases.
Rideout Law Group is one of the most experienced law firms for juvenile dependency cases in Arizona, having handled thousands of such cases throughout the state, and won at both the trial and appellate levels. In these sensitive and potentially life-altering situations, we ensure that your rights are complied with and prevent DCS from taking advantage of families that don’t understand the process. As one of the few expert law firms in juvenile dependency, we provide a roadmap to reunite each family as efficiently as possible.
Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the entire state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are exceptionally experienced in handling dependency cases. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.