Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO

Information of Rights

Dependency Proceedings

A dependency petition has been filed against you by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) alleging that your child is dependent as defined in RCW 13.34.030(5) and should be placed in the custody of the Department.  A court hearing has been scheduled.  Your child’s name and information about the time and location of the court hearing is set forth in the summons published in the newspaper.

Child Welfare 101 Video:  Learn more about the Court Dependency process as it functions in Pierce County, WA. (1 hr 12 min). Windows Media / Real Player 

YOU HAVE IMPORTANT LEGAL RIGHTS AND INTERESTS IN THIS MATTER AND YOU SHOULD ATTEND THE HEARING.  YOU CAN FIND DIRECTIONS AND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE COURT IN THE COUNTY WHERE THE HEARING WILL BE HELD AT:  http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_dir/?fa=court_dir.county

TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE DEPENDENCY PETITION FILED BY DSHS REGARDING YOUR CHILD, CONTACT THE OFFICE OF THE DSHS DIVISION OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES (DCFS) NEAREST TO WHERE YOUR CHILD LIVES.  YOU CAN FIND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR DSHS/DCFS OFFICES AT: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/general/index.asp

In a dependency proceeding, you have certain rights as the parent or legal guardian or custodian of the child.  These rights include:

  • You have the right to have a lawyer represent you in the proceeding. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you if you contact the court and request that a lawyer be appointed for you. A lawyer can look at the files in your case, talk to child protective services and other agencies, tell you about the law, help you understand your rights, and help you at hearings.
  • You have the right to view and get copies of the records DSHS intends to rely upon in the proceeding.  A copy of any records you are legally entitled to will be provided at no expense to you or your attorney in accordance with Washington State law.
  • You have the right to attend all hearings regarding your child, to hear evidence against you and to introduce evidence and be heard on your behalf, to examine witnesses, and to receive a decision based solely on the evidence presented to the judge.   If you do not attend the hearing, the judge will not hear what you have to say.

A DEPENDENCY PETITION BEGINS A JUDICIAL PROCESS, WHICH, IF THE COURT FINDS YOUR CHILD DEPENDENT, COULD RESULT IN PERMANENT LOSS OF YOUR PARENTAL RIGHTS OR IN SUBSTANTIAL RESTRICTIONS ON YOUR RIGHTS AND INTERESTS AS A PARENT SUCH AS THE ENTRY OR MODIFICATION OF A PARENTING PLAN OR RESIDENTIAL SCHEDULE OR ENTRY OF A NONPARENTAL CUSTODY ORDER OR A GUARDIANSHIP ORDER.

If the court finds your child dependent and places your child in the custody of the DSHS or another supervising agency, DSHS or the agency will create a permanency plan for your child, including a primary placement goal and secondary placement goal. DSHS or the agency is required to make reasonable efforts to provide you with services to address your parenting problems, and to provide you with visitation with your child according to court orders.

Absent good cause, and when appropriate, DSHS or the supervising agency must follow the wishes of a parent regarding placement of a child. You should immediately tell your lawyer and the court where you wish your child be placed, including whether you want your child placed with you, with a relative, or with another suitable person. Even if you want another parent or person to be the primary placement choice for your child, you should tell your lawyer, DSHS or the supervising agency, and the court if you want to be a secondary placement option, and you should comply with all court orders for services and participate in visitation with your child. 

EARLY AND CONSISTENT INVOLVEMENT IN YOUR CHILD'S CASE PLAN IS IMPORTANT FOR THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR CHILD.  FAILURE TO PROMPTLY ENGAGE IN SERVICES OR TO MAINTAIN CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD MAY LEAD TO THE FILING OF A PETITION TO TERMINATE YOUR PARENTAL RIGHTS.

If you are the alleged father of the child named in the published summons and paternity has not been determined, DSHS or the court may require you to participate in paternity testing.

You may be responsible for the financial support of your child if your child is placed in out-of-home care.

If the court does appoint an attorney for you, you should maintain regular contact with your attorney or the court may permit your attorney to withdraw from your case.  An attorney cannot effectively represent you if the attorney does not know your position on the issues before the court or cannot get in touch with you.

This information is provided by the Office of the Attorney General as general information about your rights as a parent whose child is the subject of a dependency petition filed by DSHS.  The Office of the Attorney General represents DSHS in dependency proceedings and is not your attorney and cannot provide legal advice to you in your case or answer any specific questions you may have.  If you do have questions about your legal rights and interests or about the nature and purpose of a dependency proceeding, you should contact an attorney.  As stated above, if you appear in the dependency proceeding and cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent you.

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo