(a) (1) The judge of the juvenile court shall control all proceedings during the hearings with a view to the expeditious and effective ascertainment of the jurisdictional facts and the ascertainment of all information relative to the present condition and future welfare of the person upon whose behalf the petition is brought. Except where there is a contested issue of fact or law, the proceedings shall be conducted in an informal nonadversary atmosphere with a view to obtaining the maximum cooperation of the minor upon whose behalf the petition is brought and all persons interested in his or her welfare with any provisions that the court may make for the disposition and care of the minor.
(2) Each juvenile court is encouraged to develop a dependency mediation program to provide a problem-solving forum for all interested persons to develop a plan in the best interests of the child, emphasizing family preservation and strengthening. The Legislature finds that mediation of these matters assists the court in resolving conflict, and helps the court to intervene in a constructive manner in those cases where court intervention is necessary. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person, except the mediator, who is required to report suspected child abuse pursuant to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 11164) of Chapter 2 of Title 1 of Part 4 of the Penal Code), shall be exempted from those requirements under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 1115) of Division 9 of the Evidence Code because he or she agreed to participate in a dependency mediation program established in the juvenile court.
If a dependency mediation program has been established in a juvenile court, and if mediation is requested by any person who the judge or referee deems to have a direct and legitimate interest in the particular case, or on the court’s own motion, the matter may be set for confidential mediation to develop a plan in the best interests of the child, utilizing resources within the family first and within the community if required.
(b) The testimony of a minor may be taken in chambers and outside the presence of the minor’s parent or parents, if the minor’s parent or parents are represented by counsel, the counsel is present and any of the following circumstances exist:
(1) The court determines that testimony in chambers is necessary to ensure truthful testimony.
(2) The minor is likely to be intimidated by a formal courtroom setting.
(3) The minor is afraid to testify in front of his or her parent or parents.
After testimony in chambers, the parent or parents of the minor may elect to have the court reporter read back the testimony or have the testimony summarized by counsel for the parent or parents.
The testimony of a minor also may be taken in chambers and outside the presence of the guardian or guardians of a minor under the circumstances specified in this subdivision.
(c) At any hearing in which the probation department bears the burden of proof, after the presentation of evidence on behalf of the probation department and the minor has been closed, the court, on motion of the minor, parent, or guardian, or on its own motion, shall order whatever action the law requires of it if the court, upon weighing all of the evidence then before it, finds that the burden of proof has not been met. That action includes, but is not limited to, the dismissal of the petition and release of the minor at a jurisdictional hearing, the return of the minor at an out-of-home review held prior to the permanency planning hearing, or the termination of jurisdiction at an in-home review. If the motion is not granted, the parent or guardian may offer evidence without first having reserved that right.
(Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 772, Sec. 12. Effective January 1, 1998.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018