Frequently Asked Questions About Juvenile Law In Colorado
Family law invokes strong emotions. This is especially true in cases alleging abuse or neglect of children. At Fletcher Family Law, LLC, we are well-versed in the sensitive area of Colorado juvenile law. We advocate for parents and children in these proceedings.
If you have questions or need legal counsel, we invite you to call our Centennial law office at 303-741-8971 to arrange a consultation.
When is a child considered neglected in Colorado?
A child is deemed neglected or “dependent” on interventional care under a number of circumstances:
- The child has been abandoned, abused or mistreated by a parent or guardian
- A parent or guardian has allowed someone to abuse the child without attempting to stop it or prevent future mistreatment
- The child’s environment is not safe
- The child lacks proper care due to the parent’s actions or indifference
- The parent or guardian fails to provide necessary medical care or education
- The child is homeless or living in substandard conditions
- The child has run away or is out of control
Who is required to report abuse and neglect in Colorado?
Under state law, most professionals who have contact with children in the course of their jobs are mandated reporters of suspected abuse or neglect. This includes (but is not limited to) social workers and human services personnel, family doctors and dentists, teachers and school nurses, day care providers, emergency room doctors and nurses, physical therapists, police officers, probation officers, firefighters, counselors and psychologists, and clergy members. Even veterinarians, animal control officers and photo lab personnel are required to report red flag signs of neglect or abuse.
Can a parent be charged with child abuse for disciplining their child?
Spanking or forcing a child to go without supper is not considered abuse under Colorado law. But disciplining that goes beyond “reasonable” can result in abuse charges. Striking or kicking a child or putting the child in a cage or restraints crosses that line. Investigators consider the degree and frequency of physical force, along with evidence from mandated reporters.
Who may be involved in a dependency and neglect case?
Many agencies and individuals may be involved, including:
- The parent(s) of the child and their legal counsel
- A county social services caseworker assigned to the case
- A guardian ad litem (GAL) appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests
- A volunteer CASA (court-appointed special advocate)
- A county case coordinator who manages the dependency and neglect
- A county attorney who makes a recommendation to the court
You may be contacted by the caseworker, the CASA and the county attorney who gather information and report to the court. It is important to have a lawyer to advocate for your rights in this process, especially because the outcome of their investigation may be the removal of your children and termination of your parental rights.
How do dependency and neglect cases progress through the court in Colorado?
If the county attorney files a dependency and neglect (D&N) petition, you will be given a court date to respond to the allegations. If you acknowledge the petition is mostly true, the court will proceed to a treatment plan. If you deny the allegations, you can request a trial by judge or jury.
- In a preliminary protection proceeding, the court will decide whether to temporarily take your child out of the home. If your child is removed, the court may order tests of their physical and mental well-being.
- The next stage is an adjudicatory hearing, in which the court decides if the child is neglected or dependent. The hearing is held within 60 to 90 days of the filing of the petition, or within 45 days if the child is under the age of 6.
- The case moves to disposition if the court determines the child was abused or neglected. Your child may be placed with relatives, or remain in the custody of the Department of Human Services, while you work with the caseworker, the child’s GAL and your attorney to develop a case treatment plan. This may involve evaluation or treatment of the parents/guardians, as well as medical and/or mental health treatment for your child.
- There will be periodic review hearings to determine if you are getting help and following through. Failing to follow the case treatment plan can result in a motion to terminate parental rights.
- The court will hold a permanency planning hearing within 12 months of the removal of the child from your care to determine if the child can be safely returned to your care or to the care of a relative in the near future. If not, the court will initiate termination of parental rights and placement of the child in foster care or placement for adoption.
Can a parent who establishes guardianship because of his or her inability to provide care seek termination of the guardianship later on?
Yes, a guardianship is not permanent or irreversible. The parent would have to petition the court to terminate the guardianship and demonstrate that they are capable of resuming care for the child. The court would likely require a mental evaluation and/or proof of completing treatment before approving the request.
I was falsely accused of abusing or neglecting my child; what should I do?
Contact an attorney right away. The laws surrounding child abuse and neglect are incredibly complicated and so is the court process. You need an advocate in your corner who can explain the charges against you, what your rights are to defend yourself as well as the process to ensure you retain your parental rights if the allegations against you are false.
We Can Address All Your Questions
Every family is unique, and juvenile law proceedings can vary from county to county. To discuss your specific situation or concerns, please call Fletcher Family Law, LLC, at 303-741-8971 to arrange a consultation, or contact us online.