What Happens When A Juvenile Court Issues A Custody Order Then Dismisses The Case?

When a child is taken into juvenile court and judged a dependent of the court, there are usually three ways the case can end: 1) parental rights can be terminated and the child adopted, 2) a guardianship can be granted to a third party, and 3) the child can be returned to the parents upon completion of certain programs and milestones, with the juvenile court issuing exit orders.

This post concerns the last one, when the court dismisses the case and issues exit orders. Exit orders can (and usually do) contain a ruling on physical and legal custody, the visitation schedule, and other orders, such as supervised visitation and drug testing. The orders can look pretty much identical to a family law order.

However, what is important about these orders, is that because the juvenile court judge has had extensive information on the case for a period of time, the orders that the judge issues are, under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 364.2, final orders of the court. This has one major significance: in order to change the orders, you must show a significant change of circumstances and that a change would be in the best interest of the child. This means that you do not start off clean in family law court: the orders have the effect of a final judgment, and a party trying to change them is working at a significant disadvantage. This does not mean that they CANNOT be changed—just that the circumstances must be such that there is a strong justification and reason for the changes to the orders, identical to what is needed to change orders in a final custody order or divorce judgment.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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