Denise Redinger ♦ Heidi Nagel ♦ David Reynolds ♦ Lori Maxwell



Redinger Law: Finding Child Welfare (Dependency) Lawyers in Seattle

Dependency law actions are frustrating and highly emotional. Because they usually involve multiple state agencies, the system can seem complex and daunting. An experienced child welfare attorney can make an immense difference in reducing stress and producing a positive outcome.

Heidi L. Nagel has 15 years of experience working as a trial attorney in child protection cases and is known for her carefully thought out advocacy for families and her expertise with special needs children.  She is an expert lawyer for children, an advocate for child protection issues and has volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem and a speaker for CASA Programs in Seattle and  across the state.  As a parent of two, she is sensitive to the needs of parents and other family members and is passionate about making family transitions easier.

If you have been served a dependency petition or called to a hearing, you should not wait until the next business day – contact an attorney immediately. If it is after our normal office hours, you can submit a request through our Contact form and we will get in touch with you ASAP.

What is dependency?

In Washington State, child welfare law is referred to as dependency law. Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), is the agency charged with investigating allegations of child abuse or neglect. If CPS determines a child is at risk, they may file a dependency petition in the courts to determine if the child in questions is dependent.

As a large bureaucratic agency, CPS is not always able to gain a complete understanding of each individual family’s circumstances. Moreover when the child in question has disabilities, the complex issues surrounding care for that child are often misunderstood. In these and other circumstances, CPS may overlook the rights of the parent and overstep the boundaries of state power.

If you have been served with a dependency petition:     

  1. Find a lawyer immediately;
  2. Tell your lawyer about your primary/secondary placement wishes for the child;
  3. Comply with all court orders for services and participate in visitation with your child.

What happens when DSHS files a dependency petition?

When a dependency petition is filed with the juvenile court, a judicial process is initiated to determine whether or not the child is dependent. The law in Washington State defines a child as dependent if any of the following apply:

  1. The child has been abandoned;
  2. There has been abuse or neglect by one of the parents;
  3. No parent or guardian capable of meeting the needs of the child.

The important thing to understand about a dependency petition is that your child has become a ward of the state, and your rights as a parent are being transferred to a social worker or other state agent. If the state determines your child is dependent, you are in danger of losing all parental rights.

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General asserts this in no uncertain terms:

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 non-parental custody order or a guardianship order.” [bold emphasis added]

If your child has been removed from the home, you are entitled to a shelter care hearing within 72 hours of the filing of a dependency petition. In this hearing, you can give your primary and secondary placement wishes for the child and avoid entering them into the foster care system.

Your rights as a parent.

If DSHS has removed or threatened to remove your child from their home, you may feel like the courts are working under the presumption that you are guilty until proven innocent, or you may feel helpless and that you have no rights in these proceedings. However, parents have important rights in dependency law not just under local and state law, but under the United States Constitution. An experienced attorney is key in helping you navigate the legal journey and make full use of these rights.

You have the right to:

  1. A shelter care hearing to determine the placement of your child within 72 hours of the filing of a dependency petition.
  2. Have a lawyer represent you in the proceeding.
  3. View and obtain of the records DSHS intends to rely upon in the proceeding.
  4. Attend all hearings regarding your child, hear evidence against you and introduce evidence to be heard on your behalf, to examine witnesses, and to receive a decision based solely on the evidence presented to the judge.

In addition, parents are also entitled to a trial to determine whether or not their child is dependent within 75 days of filing of the dependency petition.

Call Today: (206) 774-0900