DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

   <<< Return to OPP Table of Contents
Handbook 8: Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-1.1  Drafting an Effective Petition
Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-1.1  Drafting an Effective Petition
Reference Points
Contents of the Petition
Santa Clara County Practice
Petition Drafting Tips
Wording for Domestic Violence Allegations in a Petition
Things to Leave Out of The Petition
Difference Between a Petition and Detention Report


Reference Points
Effective Date: Ongoing
Last Updated: 1/1/05
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 332


Contents of the Petition  

Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 332 describes the required contents of the petition:

  • Name of Court
  • Title of Proceedings
  • Notice re: child support
  • Code section under which the matter is proceeding
  • Name, age and address of the child
  • Names and addresses of both parents and any guardian.
  • If not known, the name and address of any adult relative residing within the county or the relative who lives closest to court.
  • Whether child was taken into custody, and, if taken into custody, the date and precise time the child was taken into custody.
  • A concise statement of facts, separately stated, to support the
    conclusion that the child upon whose behalf the petition
    is being brought is a person within the definition of each
    of the sections and subdivisions under which the proceedings are being instituted.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Santa Clara County Practice  
  • The first allegation of the petition generally states particulars of protective custody, unless to do so is confusing or does not make sense.
    • Example:
      “On January 1, 2001, San Jose Police placed the child, Baby Jones, age one (DOB 12/20/99), into protective custody due to physical abuse by his mother, Joni Jones.”
  •  
  • After the first allegation, begin each allegation with “Further.” There is no need to use “further” within the body of allegations.
    • Example:
      Further, the child was found to have bruising on the left side of his back; the bruising was in varying stages of healing.
  •  
  • Use complete sentences within the allegations, and end each allegation with a semi-colon.
  • Use the legal name of child and parents and include the child’s date of birth.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Petition Drafting Tips  
  1. Allege facts, not opinions.
    • You must be able to back up every allegation with a witness or documentation.
    • Be accurate and fair.
  2.  
  3. Organize the petition so it makes sense and is logical.
    The introductory allegation puts the case in context. It usually includes when and why protective custody occurred.
    • Be sure you know the legal reason for protective custody.
     
    • For example, the fact of the allegation would not be that a warrant was served, but the fact that at the time the warrant was served, the parent was under the influence and the house was filthy.
  4. Note: Don’t bury the important facts in body or at bottom- quickly get to the most compelling facts unless to do so would confuse the reader.

    Chronological Organization

    • Allegations may be organized by date from most recent to most previous.

    Group Allegations by Type of Problem

    • Substance abuse
    • Domestic violence
    • Criminal history

    Note: Each allegation covers a complete subject or incident. Don’t just make each sentence a new allegation.

  5. Paint a vivid picture and tell a compelling story.
    • Be graphic and specific.
    • A significant quote can be effective.
    • Be careful about quoting the child.
    • Don’t use that child said she was molested.
      • This can put pressure on the child if the parent knows information is from the child’s statement.
  6.  
  7. Don’t forget to include an allegation regarding the non-custodial parent, if the non-custodial parent cannot adequately care for and supervise the child.
    • Failure to include the non-custodial parent in the petition could lead to release to the non-custodial parent at the Initial Petition Hearing.
    • If the non-custodial parent is willing and capable of providing adequate care and supervision of the child, the social worker’s efforts should be placing with the non-custodial parent.

  8. Always consider siblings.
     
  9. Connect the parent’s conduct to harm to the child.
    • Neither drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness, truancy or even domestic violence, alone, will support jurisdiction.
  10.  
  11. Use good English.
    • Correct grammar, punctuation and spelling add to the credibility of the petition.
    • Use active not passive voice.
  12.  
  13. Avoid mitigating phrases
    • Never use “possibly…maybe…might have…it seems…it appears…”
    • Be affirmative. This is the legal basis for your case.
    • Tell the court why it must be involved in the child’s life.
  14.  
  15. Include all grounds for jurisdiction.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Wording for Domestic Violence Allegations in a Petition  

When a petition alleges that domestic violence is a factor which has resulted in or places a child at substantial risk of child abuse or neglect, the following wording is recommended for the allegations as they apply and are appropriate for the case:

1. Further, on or about (date), the child(ren) was/were exposed to acts of domestic violence in that (give specific details of who did what to whom).

2. Further, during the above described event(s), the child(ren) was/were (location of child) and, therefore, (saw/heard/witnessed) the incident(s) and/or was physically/emotionally impacted in that he the child (describe behaviors/statements).

3. Further, on or about (date), the child(ren) was/were placed at risk because of acts of domestic violence in that (give specific details of events which may include stalking, threats, violation of restraining orders or acts committed while the child was not present, but placed the child at risk).

4. Further, during (time frame), the mother/father has/had (number) of relationships involving domestic violence.

5. Further, on (date), (perpetrator's name), the (type of relationship in reference to the child, e.g., the mother, the father, the stepfather, the mother's boyfriend, etc.) was convicted of the following charges related to domestic violence (give specific Penal Code and summary of convictions).

  • When appropriate add:
    • and is currently on probation/parole with the following conditions: (describe conditions).
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Things to Leave Out of The Petition  
  • Unsubstantiated prior referrals to DFCS
  • Arrest history with no conviction. (Do include convictions)
  • Criminal history unrelated to parenting, i.e., traffic violations, driving on a suspended license)
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Difference Between a Petition and Detention Report  

Remember that a petition and detention report are two documents with two different purposes.

  • Petition - states the facts that form a basis for jurisdiction.
  • Detention (Initial Petition) Report - supplies evidence to support the petition and detention recommendation.
  • The Detention Report should include much more information than the petition and should not simply repeat allegations.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page