Long Beach Defacto Parents Lawyers

Posted By admin, On September 18, 2020

Are You Trying to Get De Facto Parent Status of a Child Involved in a Juvenile Dependency Matter in Long Beach?

In some juvenile dependency cases, the court will determine that a minor has to become a ward of the court. In other words, the court has opted to take custody of the minor. This happens when the child’s parents have been found to be incapable of properly caring for the child. In numerous cases, a ward of the juvenile court will have some adult in their life that can be relied upon to stand in as a parent, and with whom the minor has a relationship that is akin to that of a parent and child. For example, a minor might have a grandparent or adult sibling who has taken the place of parents. This individual plays an important role in the child’s life, and may wish to assume responsibility for the child.

The case records in  juvenile dependency cases are confidential, protected by numerous provisions in the law that would keep even a relative who has been acting as the child’s parent from having access to information about the case. However, a court could recognize such a person as the minor’s “de facto parent,” which is a legal status that allows the de facto guardian certain rights with regards to the child’s case.

De Facto Parent Status

Pursuant to Rule 5.502(10) of the California Rules of Court, a “de facto parent” is an individual “who has been found by the court to have assumed, on a day-to-day basis, the role of parent, fulfilling both the child’s physical and psychological needs for care and affection, and who has assumed that role for a substantial period.”

In order for a court to give someone de facto parent status over a minor child, the person needs to show that he or she has met the minimum requirements for getting de facto status. 

The court will weigh the following factors in making its decision:

  • Whether a “psychological bond” exists between the adult and the child;
  • Whether the adult has functioned as the child’s parent on a day-to-day basis for a substantial period of time;
  • Whether the adult knows unique details about the child that would assist the court in its proceedings;
  • Whether the adult regularly shows up at the juvenile court proceedings; and
  • Whether a future proceeding might result in an order that permanently bars the adult from having contact with the child.

Traditional vs. Liberal De Facto Parent Approaches

Most courts employ the “traditional” approach, under which the court will focus on the nature of the relationship of the child to the potential de facto parent. They look for evidence of a positive psychological parent-child relationship in a wholesome, stable environment.  If that is what they find, the court will be inclined to grant de facto parent status. 

Some courts employ a “liberal” approach when evaluating a claim for de facto status. With this approach, the court will gather any and all information that can be found that is relevant to the child’s future and the level of care the adult is able to provide that child. Many view this approach as problematic, as a court following this approach could very well overlook the fact that the juvenile court can allow any person with a legitimate interest in a case to be present at hearings. Such a person could ask the court to modify or vacate any order based on evidence the court did not possess at the time of the order. Under this approach, unexpected outcomes can happen, such as the awarding of de facto parental rights to an individual with whom the child wanted no relationship.

What About Child Abuse Claims Against a De Facto Parent?

A person who wants to be the de facto parent of a child may have no trouble demonstrating to the court that these factors exist, but then fail to persuade the court that he or she is suitable to stand in as the child’s parent. When someone who otherwise fits the criteria is denied this status, it is generally due to the fact that the court has learned that he or she either caused substantial harm to the child, or because he or she was the one who caused the dependency proceedings in the first place. In other words, a person who is the reason that the child is in juvenile court would never be granted any rights as a de facto parent.

What Rights Do I Have as a De Facto Parent?

A de facto parent has the certain rights with respect to the child’s dependency proceedings. He or she is allowed to:

  • Be present at court proceedings;
  • Have representation by legal counsel;
  • Bring evidence and cross-examine witnesses in the trial; and
  • Ask for discovery in the case.

Nevertheless, it is critical to be clear that a de facto parent, while having some rights, does not have the same rights that a child’s actual parents or legal guardian would have. For example, a de facto parent has no custody rights over the child, nor even rights of visitation or reunification. A de facto parent has a few limited due process rights, but only as they relate to his or her legally recognized interest in the child.  These, also, are not to the extent of the child’s biological or adoptive parents. Although the de facto parent is entitled to discovery in a case, the social workers’ reports are not automatically furnished.  They must be requested.

How do I End a De Facto Parent Relationship?

After de facto status has been awarded, it will endure until the proceedings have ended, or until changed circumstances no longer warrant the status. The Department of Social Services needs to then file a motion to that effect.  They give notice to the de facto parent, and ask the court to conduct a hearing. If the court determines that the status can no longer be supported in light of the new circumstances, the court can terminate the de facto parent’s rights in the proceedings.

How Can I Apply to Be a De Facto Parent?

Your Long Beach de facto parents lawyer will need to file two forms with the juvenile court that contain information about you and your relationship to the child. Indeed, you may do this on your own.  Nonetheless, an experienced Long Beach dependency lawyer will be able to help you put together a convincing narrative about your relationship with the child.  An attorney will provide you with a better chance of having your interest in the child protected in the course of the juvenile dependency proceedings.

Do I Have to Be the Child’s Relative to be Recognized as a De Facto Parent?

No, this is not a requirement for de facto parenthood. While being a relative of the child could help the court gain a clearer picture of your day-to-day relationship with the child, it is not a necessity. On the same token, if you are related to the child, understand that this fact alone is not enough to convince a court that you should be the child’s de facto parent.

If there is a child in your life who needs you to be there for them, your Long Beach de facto parents lawyer can help you get your connection to that child legally cemented during a difficult time in their lives.