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Juvenile / Dependency

The Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender serves as court appointed counsel for indigent parents in Dependency and Severance cases. The Office provides representation for the parents from the beginning of the court action through family reunification or guardianship/termination. For further information, please refer to the sections outlined on this page, and/or consult with the attorney assigned to the individual case.

Dependency

A "dependent child" is a child who is in need of proper and effective parental care and control and has no parent or guardian who is willing or capable of exercising that care and control. A dependent child could also be a child who is destitute, or who is not provided with the necessities of life, including adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care, or where the home is "unfit" by reason of abuse, neglect, cruelty or depravity by a parent, guardian or other person having care or custody of the child.

Severance

There must be grounds for a termination of parental rights. A Petition for Termination of Parental Relationship must show that the termination is in the child's best interests and at least one of the following:

  • A parent has abandoned the child.
  • A parent has neglected or willfully abused the child.
  • A parent has mental illness, mental deficiency or history of chronic abuse of dangerous drugs, controlled substances or alcohol. There must be reasonable grounds to believe that the condition will continue for prolonged and indeterminate period.
  • A parent is convicted of a felony. The felony should prove the unfitness of that parent to have future custody and control of the child, or the sentence should be of such length that the child would be deprived of a normal home for a period of years.
  • The parent has had parental rights to another child terminated within two years for the same cause and cannot currently raise a child.
  • After the petition has been filed, the Juvenile Court sets an initial hearing to determine whether or not the petition is being contested.
  • If the Petition is uncontested, the parental rights are terminated. If the Petition is contested, then the Court will hold a Termination Adjudication Hearing. In most instances, the Court appoints a best interest attorney, a Guardian ad Litem, to represent the child's "best interests." At the Termination Adjudication Hearing, the Court determines whether at least one of the grounds for termination has been proven and whether the termination is in the child's best interests.

File Retention

Your Legal Defender file will be retained after completion of your case for 7 years. At the scheduled time, your file will be destroyed unless exceptional circumstances exist. You may request a copy of the file prior to destruction under this schedule. Because of the ethical rules followed by all attorneys in our office and because of the high regard this office holds for client confidentiality, only clients are able to receive copy of a file. Family members will not be permitted to obtain a copy without specific authorization from a client unequivocally communicating a waiver of confidentially to the assigned attorney and specifically naming the individual entitled to receive a copy of the file.

Common Terms

Appeal

When a party does not agree with a final order or ruling of the Court, the party may file an appeal which requests that a higher court examine the procedure and ruling of the lower court. Time limits usually apply for the appeal to be filed.

Burden of Proof

The duty of one party in a legal case to convince the Judge that their version of the facts is true.

Cradles to Crayons (C2C)

Cradles to Crayons is a specialized court and services for dependency cases involving children from ages 0-3.

Dependency

A dependency case is filed when there is a child who is in need of proper and effective parental care and control and there is no parent or guardian who is willing or capable of providing that care and control. A dependency case could also be filed when there has been abuse, neglect, cruelty or depravity by a parent or guardian or other person having custody or control of the child. A dependency case could involve the children being in or out of the home and requires that a parent be involved with CPS and the juvenile court.

Evidence

Witnesses who testify or exhibits that are presented at a hearing or trial to convince the Judge of a party’s version of the facts.

Guardianship

A permanent guardianship may be filed during a dependency case which requests that the child(ren) be placed with a fit and proper person and that the best interests of the child(ren) would be served by granting the permanent guardianship. When a guardianship is granted, the dependency case is dismissed and CPS is no longer involved with the family except to provide an annual report to the Court. A guardianship does not permanently terminate the parent(s)' rights and may be revoked in the future if the parent is able to parent AND it is in the child(ren)'s best interests to revoke the guardianship.

In-Home Intervention

An In-Home Intervention is a dependency case filed with the Court that does not involve a formal finding of dependency and services are provided to the parent in the home. In order to qualify for this type of case, there must not have been a prior removal by CPS, all parties must be in agreement with all services, and the issue(s) which caused the case to be filed are believed to be able to be resolved within one year.

Severance

A severance action requests that the Court permanently "sever" or terminate the relationship between the parent(s) and child(ren). The severance may be filed by a motion during a dependency case or by a separately filed petition. In order to terminate parental rights, the court must find sufficient evidence to meet the statutory burden of one or more severance ground(s), as well as a finding of whether it is in the child(ren)'s best interests to have their parents’ rights terminated.

Severance Grounds

Abandonment

Failure of a parent to provide reasonable support and maintain regular contact with the child.

Felony Conviction - Length

The parent is convicted of a felony and the parent's sentence is of such a length that the child will be deprived of a normal home for a period of years.

Felony Conviction - Nature

The parent is convicted of a felony and the felony is of such nature as to prove the unfitness of that parent to have future custody and control of the child.

Mental Illness / Mental Deficiency / Chronic Substance Abuse History

The parent is unable to care for their child(ren) because of mental illness, mental deficiency, or a history of chronic abuse of dangerous drugs, controlled substances or alcohol and there are reasonable grounds to believe the condition will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period.

Neglect / Abuse

Serious physical or emotional injury or situations in which the parent knew or should have known that a person was abusing or neglecting a child.

Prior Dependency

A parent who had a prior open dependency case and had the child(ren) returned to the parent may have their parental rights terminated if the child(ren) is removed from the home again by CPS within eighteen (18) months of the prior dependency case being closed and the parent is unable to discharge their parental responsibilities. The prior dependency case could be from another state.

Prior Severance

Parental rights may be terminated if the parent has had parental rights to another child terminated within the preceding two years for the same cause and the parent is currently unable to parent due to the same cause.

Time in Care

6 Months Time-in-Care: The child(ren) who is/are under the age of three (3) has been out of the parent(s)' home for a cumulative total period of six (6) months or longer and the parent has substantially neglected or willfully refused to remedy the circumstances as to why the child(ren) came into care.

9 Months Time-in-Care: The child(ren) has been out of the parent(s)' home for a cumulative total period of six (6) months or longer and the parent has substantially neglected or willfully refused to remedy the circumstances as to why the child(ren) came into care.

15 Months Time-in-Care: The child(ren) has been out of the parent(s)' home for a cumulative total period of fifteen (15) months or longer and the parent has been unable to remedy the circumstances which caused the child to be out of the home, and there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of exercising proper and parental care and control within the near future.

Common Abbreviations

ADESArizona Department of Economic Security
C2CCradles To Crayons
CFTChild and Family Team
CPCChange in Physical Custody
CPSChild Protective Services
DEPDependency
FCRBFoster Care Review Board
Form 1Court's Form - Rights and Responsibilities in a Dependency Action
Form 2Court's Form - Rights and Responsibilities in a Guardianship Action
Form 3Court's Form - Rights and Responsibilities in a Severance Action
GALGuardian ad Litem
GXGuardianship
ICPCInterstate Compact on the Placement of Children
ICWAIndian Child Welfare Act
ILPIndependent Living Program
LTFCLong Term Foster Care
MDCTMulti-Disciplinary Conference Team
PPHPermanency Planning Hearing
PTCPre-Trial Conference
RNRReport & Review Hearing
SEVSeverance
TCNTemporary Custody Notice
TDMTeam Decision-Making Meeting

Types of Hearings

Dependency Trial

Parents have the right to have a trial to determine whether they should be required to participate in reunification services through Child Protective Services (CPS) and have court involvement with their family. If a dependency finding is made, CPS has legal custody of the children. The physical custody of the children could be in or out of the home.

Evidentiary Hearing

A hearing is scheduled in the case when a party files a motion or an issue is raised and one or more of the other parties do not agree. The hearing may proceed by using witnesses and exhibits.

Guardianship Trial

Parents have the right to have a trial to determine whether the Court should grant a Permanent Guardianship in a case rather than reunifying the family or terminating the parents' rights as to their child(ren).

In-Home Intervention Hearing

A preliminary hearing is held after an In-Home Intervention is filed to see if all parties are in agreement with proceeding in this manner. Additional review hearings are also set to determine how the In-Home Intervention has progressed and whether it is appropriate to dismiss.

Initial Dependency Hearing

After a dependency petition is filed, the Court schedules an Initial Dependency Hearing to determine whether the parents have been properly served with notice of the dependency case. If the parents appear, their position as to the case will be entered at that time. The Initial Dependency Hearing may be vacated if all parents previously appeared at the Preliminary Protective Conference/Preliminary Protective Hearing (PP5) or if their whereabouts are unknown.

Initial Severance or Guardianship Hearing

When the Court proceeds with a case plan of severance or guardianship instead of family reunification, an Initial Hearing is scheduled to determine whether the parent(s) received legal notice of the action. If the parent(s) appear(s) at the hearing, their position as to the severance or guardianship will be entered at that time.

Mediation

A conference held with all parties without the Judge being present. Issues in the case can be discussed and/or resolved before or instead of going to trial.

Oral Argument

An Oral Argument is scheduled when there are disputed issues in a case. The hearing likely will proceed only with attorneys for the parties arguing their positions and without witnesses and exhibits.

Permanency Planning Hearing

Permanency Planning Hearings are scheduled during the dependency case to determine the "permanent" plan and which direction the case will take. The case could continue as family reunification if progress is being made, or an alternate plan such as severance or guardianship could be requested.

Preliminary Protective Conference / Preliminary Protective Hearing (PP5)

After a dependency petition is filed, the Court schedules a quick-set conference and a hearing which allows the parties to appear and discuss the case, reunification services, visitation and case disposition.

Pre-Trial Conference

When the parties have been unable to come to a resolution as to a case or issue, a Pre-Trial Conference is held to schedule trial dates and discuss pre-trial issues.

Publication Hearing

When a parent's whereabouts are unknown, notice about the case and hearings may need to be published in a newspaper before the case can proceed and a hearing is held to determine if publication was completed.

Report & Review Hearing

Report & Review hearings are scheduled throughout the dependency case to see what services are in place, discuss case issues, and determine whether progress has been made on the case.

Severance Trial

Parents in a dependency case have the right to a trial when a case plan is changed to severance. The Court determines at the severance trial whether the parental rights should be permanently terminated and if the child(ren) should be placed for adoption.

Status Conference

A Status Conference is a hearing that is scheduled prior to the next regularly scheduled hearing to discuss issues that need to be reviewed in the interim or which need to be addressed on an emergency basis.

Temporary Custody Hearing

Parents have the right to request a quick-set hearing at the PP5 for the Court to determine if CPS has met their burden to show that it is necessary to keep the children out of the home pending further hearings.

Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender
222 North Central Avenue, Suite 8100, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Main Office: (602) 506-8800  |  Fax: (602) 506-2088  
Juvenile Dependency/Severance: (602) 506-5800  |  Fax: (602) 506-0921
Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender
222 North Central Avenue, Suite 8100
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Main Office
Phone: (602) 506-8800 | Fax: (602) 506-2088
Juvenile Dependency/Severance
Phone: (602) 506-5800 | Fax: (602) 506-0921
Maricopa County || 301 W. Jefferson St. || Phoenix, AZ 85003 || 602-506-3011
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