DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 8: Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-4 Jurisdictional Hearing for WIC § 300 Petition
Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-4  Jurisdictional Hearing for WIC § 300 Petition
Reference Points
Standard of Proof
Who Must Appear
Responsibilities of the Social Worker
What Happens at the Hearing
Jurisdictional Hearing Outcomes
Key Decisions at the Jurisdictional Hearing
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 1/16/07
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 300
Popup Window WIC § 352, 353, 355
Popup Window WIC § 290.1-297
Popup Window Rule of Court 1 (F)
Popup Window Rule of Court 2 (E)(2)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
PDF Court Management Section:  Court Report Notebook


Whenever a petition is filed with the Juvenile Court, there must be a court hearing to determine whether or not the allegations of the petition are true. This hearing is the Jurisdictional/Dispositional hearing.  The Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing is a bifurcated hearing; that is, it is one hearing divided into two parts, jurisdiction and disposition.  It is during the jurisdictional part of the hearing that the allegations in the petition are addressed.  If the petition is found to be true, the court has a legal basis for taking jurisdiction over the child to protect the child's well-being. 

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The legal issue addressed by the Court at the jurisdictional hearing is whether:

  • Any or all of the allegations of the petition are true. (WIC § 355)
  • The child who is the subject of the petition is a person described by Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 300.
  • Notice of the hearing has been given to all parties as required by law.
  • The child's date of birth, as recorded on the petition, is accurate.
  • The child is a resident of the county in which the Court, if assuming jurisdictional, is located.
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Standard of Proof  

The standard or burden of proof refers to the obligation of a party to establish the requisite degree of belief concerning alleged facts. At the Jurisdictional Hearing, the proof of the allegations must be by a preponderance of the evidence. Proof by a preponderance of the evidence means that that the evidence presented is more likely true than not true.

Production of evidence is the means by which facts are proved or disproved, such as testimony, writings, material objects or other things presented to the court.   Any legally admissible evidence that is relevant to the circumstances or acts that are alleged to bring the minor within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court is admissible and may be received in evidence.   The three main types of evidence are: testimonial, documentary and real/demonstrative evidence.  A social worker court report is the Department's most commonly submitted evidence.

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The time lines that relate to the Jurisdictional Hearing include the following circumstances:

  • If the child is detained in custody, the jurisdictional hearing will be held within 15 judicial days of the order of detention.
  • If the child is not detained in custody, the jurisdictional hearing is held within 30 days of the filing of the petition.
  • Continuances:
    • The Court may order a continuance of the hearing if requested to do so by the attorney for the parent, guardian, child or the Department as long as the continuance is not contrary to the interest of the child. (WIC § 352)
    • In order for a continuance to be granted, there must be a showing of good cause and it may only be for that period of time shown to be necessary by the evidence presented at the hearing on the motion for the continuance.
    • The Court may continue the hearing for up to 7 days to appoint an attorney for any party entitled to have an attorney, to enable the attorney to acquaint him/herself with the case or to provide reasonable opportunity for the child, parent or adult relative to prepare for the hearing. (WIC § 353)
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Noticing requirements for Juvenile Dependency Hearings are established under WIC § 290.1-297.   At DFCS, noticing for the Jurisdictional Hearing is completed through the Office of County Counsel. The Notices are sent, along with a copy of the petition, on the day the petition is filed. If a parent's whereabouts is unknown at the time the petition is filed, and the DI social worker later locates the parent, the social worker informs the parent of the date, time and place of the Jurisdictional Hearing. The social worker also informs County Counsel's office of the parent's address, so that a written Notice can be mailed.

Special circumstances apply when Noticing for Hearings in which the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies or may apply.

If a child is a citizen of another country, the counsulate of the child's country of origin must be notified.  If the child is a dual citizen of the United States and another country, the social worker is required to advise the parents of their right to contact the consulate.  If the parents do want to contact the consulate, the social worker offers to assist them in making the contact.

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Who Must Appear  

Unless excused by the Court and except as indicated in Rule 2 subdivision (E) (2) (see below), each party and attorney shall attend each scheduled Juvenile Court hearing. (Rule of Court 1 (F))

All children are entitled to attend Court hearings. Every child 4 years or older shall be told of his or her right to attend Court hearings by the investigating/supervising social worker and attorney for the child. (Rule of Court 2 (E) (2)

Anyone who was ordered at the Initial Petition/Detention Hearing to return for the Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing must appear. These parties are indicated in the court Minute Orders of the Initial Petition Hearing.  Additionally, any parent or guardian whose whereabouts becomes known after the Initial Petition Hearing must be notified of the Jurisdictional Hearing.

If the child has an incarcerated parent:

  • And the parent was transported to appear at the Initial Petition Hearing, a Court Assistant will arrange for the parent's transport to the Jurisdictional Hearing.

  • And the parent did not appear for the Initial Petition Hearing, the social worker contacts a Court Assistant, 491-4200, to arrange for the parent to be transported to the Jurisdictional Hearing.
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Responsibilities of the DI Social Worker  

The responsibilities of the DI social worker in preparing for the Jurisdictional Hearing are to:

  • Continue to gather information about the case, throughout the DI process.
    • Specifically for the Jurisdictional Hearing, evidence must be obtained to prove the allegations in the petition.
  • Complete a social study (Jurisdictional Report) to be submitted to the Court and all parties or their counsel.  
    • This report must be distributed to all parties within a reasonable time before the hearing (usually 3 days).

  • Be available for cross-examination if a timely request is made for the social worker who prepares the social study to be available.
  • Contact a Court Assistant at the County Counsel 's office 10 days prior to the hearing, if an interpreter is needed or if an incarcerated parents needs to be transported to the hearing.
    • The Court Assistant will make the necessary arrangements.
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The Court Hearing  
  • WIC § 353 sets the following responsibilities for the Court at the Jurisdictional Hearing:
    • At the beginning of the hearing the judge or the clerk will read the petition to those in court.
    • If requested to do so by any party to the hearing, the judge will explain any part of the allegations in the petition and also explain the nature of the hearing, its procedures, and possible consequences.
    • The judge will inform the parent, guardian, adult relative, and the child or his/her right to have an attorney present.   


  • At the jurisdictional hearing the court decides if the allegations of the petition are true or not true. The court has three ways  upon which to base its decision:
    • The parents or guardians admit the petition is true.
    • The parents or guardians submit the matter to the Court.
      • The Court decides if the petition is true based on the evidence submitted by the Department and other parties.
      • Before the judge accepts an admission or submission, the court has to be sure the parents waive their right to a trial. This means they give up the right to: see, hear and question witnesses, bring their own witnesses or testify.
    • The parents or guardians dispute the allegations of the petition and a trial is conducted in which both sides give the court evidence at a hearing.
      • Based on evidence presented, the court finds the petition to be true or not true.
  • The following conditions must be met for the Court to take jurisdiction of the child:
    1. The person on whose behalf the petition is filed is under the age of 18.
    2. The person comes within the provisions of WIC § 300.
    3. A valid petition has been filed.
    4. The parents and child have received due notice of the hearing.
    5. Allegations of the petitions are proven based on the facts in the court report and presented by the witnesses.

  • If applicable, a finding is made regarding the child's status under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

  • Immediately following the Jurisdictional hearing, the court may begin the Dispositional Hearing or that hearing may be continued to a future date.
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Jurisdictional Hearing Outcomes  

The possible outcomes that the court may decide at a jurisdictional hearing are:

  • Dismiss the petition without prejudice.
  • Dismiss the petition with prejudice.
  • Find the petition is not true.
  • Find the petition is true and sustain it.
  • Amend the petition, find it is true and sustain it.
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Key Decisions at the Jurisdictional Hearing  

The principle decisions that the court must make at the jurisdictional hearing are:

  • Which allegations of the petition have been proved or admitted, if any.
  • Whether there is a legal basis for continued court and agency intervention.

Additional decisions the court may make at the jurisdictional hearing, if the dispositional hearing does not immediately follow, include:

  • Where the child is to be placed, pending the the dispositional hearing.
  • Orders for psychological testing of the parent or child, in preparation for the dispositional hearing.
  • Orders for an alleged perpetrator to stay out of the family home and have no contact with the child.
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Other References  
bullet2 ICWA: Noticing for Hearings
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