An appeal is a request for review of a lower court's decision by a higher court.  Generally speaking, an appeal is based on an argument that a legal error was made by the trial court.  An appeal is not a retrial.  New evidence will not be permitted and the appellate court will not reassess conflicting evidence from the trial court.

In child dependency cases, the first appealable order is the dispositional order.  Every order after disposition is appealable (by following the procedures for a general appeal), with two exceptions.  The first exception is a challenge to an order setting a “.26 hearing (also known as Welfare and Institutions section 366.26 hearing to terminate parental rights).”  The second exception is a challenge to a placement order made post-termination of parental rights (post “.26”).  In both instances, a challenge must be made via writ petition NOT as a general appeal.

The procedure for filing your appeal or writ petition is dependent on the type of order you are challenging in the higher court.  In either case, YOU MUST FILE A TIMELY NOTICE either by filing a Notice of Appeal (JV-800) or a Notice of Intent to File a Writ Petition (JV-820 or JV-822).
Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.26(l) and 366.28(b); California Rules of Court 8.450 et seq., 8.454, 8.456

It is crucial that you follow the correct procedure for filing your appeal or writ and preserve your rights to challenge the order.  This section outlines the procedures for both appellate and writ processes.  In order to determine which procedure to follow, please refer to the following chart for guidance:



Appointed Counsel On Appeal (not available for writ review)

People who have court-appointed counsel can get appointed counsel on appeal.  A person desiring appointed appellate counsel should check the box on the Notice of Appeal form. After filing the Notice, they will then be contacted by the district’s appellate project to discuss their eligibility for appointment of appellate counsel.  Note:  This only applies to appeals.  In those cases in which a writ petition must be filed, the writ petition must be filed by trial court counsel.  For a directory of California's appellate projects listed by district, click here.

Requesting Access to Records for Persons with a Limited Right to Appellate Review

Under certain circumstances, an individual who is not a party to the juvenile dependency case has the right to seek review of decisions made by the juvenile court by filing an appeal or writ petition in the Court of Appeal.  Court orders denying a request for placement via a JV-180, denying de facto parent status, or removing a child from the home of a prospective adoptive parent are all examples of instances when an individual who is not a party to the dependency case may seek appellate review by filing a notice of appeal or filing a writ petition when an appeal is not available or is not an adequate remedy.  Typically, those persons would not be entitled to access records from the juvenile court case for the appeal unless s/he has approval from the juvenile court.   To do so, the California Rules of Court require an 827 Petition or, if you are not represented by legal counsel, you can file a JV-570 Petition for Access to Juvenile Case File and give notice of their request using a JV-571.  For more information on this process, please review JV-291-INFO.

General Appeals in Dependency Cases

There are strict timelines and procedures to follow when appealing an order from dependency court in California. Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 395, the dispositional order in a dependency proceeding is appealable as a judgment and every post-dispositional order is directly appealable as an “order after judgment.”  Thus, the first appealable order in the dependency process is the dispositional order.  Every order after disposition, including orders relating to discovery, are considered final and appealable except in two instances: (1) an order setting a .26 hearing and (2) a placement order made post .26 (these orders are challenged via writ petition, please see Writ section below for more details).

For additional information regarding the general appeals process please click on relevant tab:

Orders Terminating Parental Rights and All Appealable Orders Issued by Juvenile Courts in Orange, Imperial, and San Diego Counties

The timelines for appealing all orders terminating parental rights are more stringent than for generic appeals.  The reason for the stricter procedural timelines is so that the reviewing court can decide the appeal within 250 days after the notice of appeal is filed.  These more stringent time lines also apply to all dependency appeals in Orange, Imperial, and San Diego counties and may so apply in other counties by local rules.
California Rule of Court 8.416

Most Common Types of Orders that Must be Reviewed via Writ Petition

For specific information, please find the relevant order from which you seek writ review:


Order Denying or Terminating Reunification Services (where the order also includes an order setting a .26 hearing)

If the court has ordered a hearing to be set pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.26 (also referred to as “.26 hearing”), that order usually also terminates or denies reunification services and is considered a final order.  To get an appellate court to review that order, the parent affected by that order must first file a writ petition. Failure to file a writ petition precludes raising any issues in a later appeal of a termination of parental rights that arose at the hearing at which the .26 hearing was set.  California Rule of Court 8.452

For additional information regarding writ review of this order, please click on the relevant tab:

Placement Decisions made after Parental Rights are Terminated (post .26 hearing)

California Rules of Court 8.456 and 8.490 govern the writ petitions to review post termination placement orders under Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.28.  To avoid delays caused by appeals, a placement decision following termination of parental rights is not appealable. Appellate review is only available if the person objecting to the order files a timely petition for extraordinary writ.

If the court orders that the child be placed out of state, that order is automatically stayed for seven (7) days to give the prospective adoptive parent time to file a writ petition and seek a stay from the court of appeal.  California Code of Civil Procedure section 917.7 provides, in pertinent part: “[I]n the absence of a writ or order of a reviewing court providing otherwise, the provisions of an order allowing, or eliminating restrictions against, removal of the minor child from the state are stayed by operation of law for a period of seven calendar days from the entry of the judgment or order by a juvenile court in a dependency hearing.”

For additional information regarding writ review of this order, please click on the relevant tab:

Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.

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