What Do You Need to Know About De Facto Parents and Juvenile Dependency

Any individual who has been consistently taking care of a juvenile dependent of the court has the option to apply for de facto parent status. Here is everything an individual needs to know about de facto parents and juvenile dependency.

Becoming a de facto parent may be a good option for an individual who is significantly providing for a juvenile dependent, as it can aid in increasing the amount of involvement the individual has in the juvenile’s court case. However, the juvenile court is solely responsible for determining if an individual should be granted de facto parent status. The court will always make this decision based on what is best for the juvenile dependent, but there are a few more factors they will consider.

What is a De Facto Parent?

A de facto parent is an individual who has been found by the court to assume the role of parent to a child who was previously dependent on the juvenile court. Although there is no set standard that needs to be met for an individual to be granted de facto status by the court, it is a case by case decision, there are some criteria that need to be met for an individual to receive de facto status.

An individual must be found to have taken the role of a parent on a day-to-day basis of a child. Moreover, this individual must be found to have been providing for the child’s physical and psychological needs for a significant amount of time. The specificities of the child’s needs and what is considered a substantial amount of time are determined by the juvenile court.

What is Juvenile Dependency?

Juvenile dependency is a type of case regarding the safety and wellbeing of a child that is filed through the court. When Child Protective Services (CPS) is notified of abuse or neglect to a child by their caregiver(s), a juvenile dependency case regarding their safety can be filed. This case is filed under juvenile dependency court. In short, all juvenile dependency cases are filed to a local juvenile dependency court.

It is important to note that juvenile dependency should not be confused with juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency cases only apply to children who have committed a crime. Juvenile dependency is focused on protecting the safety of the child and only applies to children whose caregiver(s) are suspected of abuse or neglect.

How to Become a De Facto Parent

Here is everything an individual needs to do if they want to file for De Facto Parent Status.

1. Fill out the correct court forms.

The De Facto Parent Request

This form will ask the standard information, such as your name, address, and phone number. There will portion on the form asking if you are filing the form on behalf of yourself or another individual who wishes to achieve de facto status. If you are filing the form for someone else, be sure that they sign the form as well. Additionally, if you have an attorney, ensure that they are available to sign the form.

The De Facto Parent Statement Form

This form is crucial to the application process as this is where a parent lists why they should be given the de facto status of the child.

It is recommended to list all of the things you or the other individual listed on the form has provided for the child that has helped them in their life. Consider providing information such as: how long you have cared for the child, what kinds of essentials have you provided to the child, what you and the child do together, how much you care for the child, your knowledge about the child’s needs, and how you can meet these needs. (If this application is for another individual who is applying to obtain de facto status, include the necessary information about what they have provided for the child).

Finally, feel free to include letters from other individuals who have previous knowledge of you and the child and would be willing to testify for you. Consider obtaining letters from teachers, pediatricians, therapists, etc.

2. The court will make a decision based on the application.

The judge of a juvenile court will determine whether or not de facto status should be granted. To aid in making this decision, the judge will consider the application, California Rule of Court 5.502(10), and any other factors that may be relevant in determining the best interest of the child.

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