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Juvenile Dependency FAQ

If you have identification showing that you are a parent or relative of a child who is the subject of a dependency proceeding and give the child's name and date of birth, the staff in the Juvenile Court Business Office can look up the case and give you the next scheduled court date and the location of the courtroom where the hearing will take place.

In order to request an attorney to represent you in Dependency Court, you should appear in court on the date of the next scheduled hearing and orally request an attorney.

If the next court hearing is not in the near future, you may request an attorney in writing and submit it to the judicial officer hearing the case. Include your name, the name of the child or children, the next court date, your relationship to the child, and how you may be reached. Explain why you would like an attorney and why you do not want to wait until the next scheduled court date. You may deliver the letter to court or send it to the court addressed to the judicial officer. The judicial officer will decide if you are entitled to have an attorney appointed. If you are entitled, the judicial officer may appoint an attorney without your appearing in court. The attorney will then contact you.

If you have a problem with your attorney, you may take the following actions: 

  • Write a letter to the judicial officer hearing your case. Be sure to explain in detail the problem with your attorney. 
  • At the next hearing, advise the court that you are requesting the appointment of a new attorney. The judicial officer will conduct a hearing

You do not have an automatic right to have your case heard by a judge. All cases are assigned to judicial officers on a random basis. However, if your case is being heard by a referee and you disagree with a particular order he or she makes, you or your attorney may file an Application for Rehearing in the Clerk's Office for a judge to rehear the issue. A judge will decide whether to grant the rehearing. If the Application for Rehearing is granted, another randomly selected judge will hear evidence on the issue you dispute and decide the issue. After the rehearing, your case will return to the referee for all future hearings.

If you did not get notice of a hearing which already took place, you should contact your attorney immediately.

The answer to this question depends on many factors, including the stage of your case. Your attorney should explain your legal rights and the steps you can take to try to have your children returned to your care. The steps may include following orders that you participate in certain programs, visiting your children, and participating in the services provided by the social worker.

To request an interpreter, a party should submit the Interpreter Request/Cancellation form (SDSC Form #ADM-348) as far in advance of the hearing as possible. Find more information on the Court’s Language Access page.