De Facto Parents

If you have been taking care of a child who has been declared a dependent of the juvenile court, you may want to be more involved in the child’s court case and consider becoming a de facto parent.

You may be a de facto parent if:

  • The child is a dependent of the juvenile court.
  • You are or have been taking care of the child every day.
  • You have been acting as the child’s parent.
  • You are meeting (or have met) the child’s needs for food, shelter, and clothing. You have also met the child’s needs for care and affection.

No law says exactly what a “de facto parent” needs to be. Judges make this decision based on other court cases and on rule 5.502(10) of the California Rules of Court.

Rights of de facto parents

If the judge finds you are a de facto parent, you have the following rights:

  • To be present at dependency proceedings (note: as a caregiver you can go to all dependency review and permanency hearings even if you are not a de facto parent);
  • To be represented by a lawyer if you hire one, or, in some cases, the court may appoint a lawyer at no cost to you if the judge thinks that is necessary;
  • To present evidence and cross-examine witnesses; and
  • To participate as a party in the disposition hearing and any hearing after that.

You can learn more about these rights by reading rule 5.534(e) of the California Rules of Court.

Remember: A de facto parent is not the same as a parent.

As a de facto parent, you do NOT have the right to:

  • Attorney fees. But, in some cases, the judge may give you an attorney, and the court will pay the fees.
  • Rehearing. You cannot ask for another hearing if you do not agree with the judge’s decision, but you have a right to an appeal.

Applying for de facto parent status

  1. Fill our your forms
    To apply, fill out the following forms:
    • De Facto Parent Request (Form JV-295):

      • Asks for your name, address, and phone number.
      • On the form, tell the judge that you or someone else wants to be the child’s de facto parent. If you are asking for someone else, you need to write that person’s information on the form.
      • Sign and date the form (or if you are asking for someone else, have that person sign the form). If you have an attorney, he or she will sign the form too.

    • De Facto Parent Statement (Form JV-296):

      • Say why you think the judge should decide that you or the other person named on Form JV-295 is a de facto parent.
      • List important things you did for the child and how often you did them. This is so the judge has all the information he or she needs to make a decision.
      • Give information like:
        • How long you have cared for the child;
        • What you do with the child;
        • What you do for the child;
        • How much you care for the child;
        • What you know about the child’s special needs, desires, hopes;
        • How you can meet the child’s needs.

      You can also attach letters from others who know you and the child. For example, teachers, therapists, pediatricians, spiritual advisors, etc.

  2. The court will make a decision
    Only the juvenile court can decide if you are a de facto parent. The judge will apply case law and rule 5.502(10). He or she will consider the care you gave the child and how long you did it. Also, the judge will decide if you can help the court understand what is best for the child — the child’s best interest. If you have harmed the child or put the child at risk, the judge will likely decide that you are NOT a de facto parent. 
If the judge decides you are not a de facto parent, you may still tell the judge what you feel or know about the child by filing out Caregiver Information Form (Form JV-290), or if you are not the current caregiver, by sending a letter to the court. If you need help filling out Form JV-290, read the Instruction Sheet for Caregiver Information Form (Form JV-290-INFO).