Know your Rights

To fully understand your rights throughout the child protective proceedings process, the Court encourages all parties to contact an attorney for a complete explanation of your rights. The following are generalized explanations of some of the rights you may have when involved in a child protective case:

The Right to an Attorney

You have the right to an attorney in most proceedings. You may also have the right to have a court –appointed attorney if you cannot afford an attorney, or if certain other conditions exist. Remember, the attorney appointed to a child, known as a “lawyer-guardian ad litem” or “L-GAL,” is there to protect the best interests of the child, which may be contrary to the wishes or intent of the parent.

The Right to Demand a Judge

Referees are appointed by judges to conduct certain hearings and make recommendations to the judge. In some proceedings, you have the right to demand that a judge, instead of a referee, conduct the hearing instead. Regardless of who conducts the hearing, the judge is responsible for all final decisions, as he or she approves or denies any referee recommendation. Preliminary inquiries and preliminary hearings are the only child protective proceedings where there is no right to demand a judge. If a party does want to make a judge demand, they must do so within the time guidelines imposed by law.