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Dependency Court Hearings

The Detention Hearing

The social worker CPS/CFS will write a petition stating allegations of how you neglected or abused your child. Often times, these allegations are overstated, exagerrated, suprising and shocking to the parents. Allegations are statements made by a social worker that he or she believes prove that your children are at risk in your custody and that the state must detain (or take custody) of the children. You have the right to an evidentiary hearing where you can call witnesses and cross examine anyone who has made statements of neglect and abuse by you.

If you have hired a CPS attorney (who actively works in the area of juvenile law) after a petition has been filed, your attorney has the right to request a 24 hour continuance to prepare and gather witnesses, if necessary. At the detention hearing the court can either detain the children, send them home, or social services will (with adequate information) place them with relatives. If the court detains the children, it will likely order conditions to enable the parent to retain custody of the children. In some cases, there is no immediate solution and the court will remove the children from the parents care.

This is an extremely emotional time that takes hard work and dedication with the family and social services. Timelines for the case are in effect, and written rules and regulations must be followed. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson are very familiar with the rules and practices at this stage of the court case, and will prove dedicated to resolving the many issues that arise. This stage of the case is where constant contact with the attorney is necessary and imperative.

At the detention hearing you have the right to:
  • cross examine any witness against you, including the CPS/CFS worker;
  • present evidence on your own behalf;
  • subpoena witnesses;
  • present witnesses on your behalf.

Prima Facie (on its face)

If the county meets their burden of a prima facie case for detention the matter will then proceed to what is called a jurisdictional hearing. A jurisdictional hearing is usually set within 10 days. This is where the county must PROVE the allegations in the petition by a preponderance of the evidence. All of your rights still hold true at this stage of the proceeding. It is also imperative that you have an attorney that is well prepared, has spent time with you and your family, investigated every aspect of the case and has remained in close contact with you.


The Jurisdictional Hearing

At the jurisdictional hearing you have the right to a trial on all of the allegations in the petition. Your juvenile law attorney will fight against the allegations of abuse and neglect – and if your attorney can show that the allegations are false or if the county cannot meet their burden of proof, (which is now a preponderance of the evidence), the petition will be dismissed. At the hearing, just like the detention hearing you have the right to bring witnesses, present evidence on your behalf, and cross examine anyone who who claims you have abused your child. It is important to find a juvenile law attorney that will take the time to meet with you, explain your case to you, and prepare diligently to present your case in a manner of utmost detail and professionalism. If, however, the allegations are found to be true, or any revised portion "sustained."

At this point, if jurisdiction is taken upon your children, your children may or may not be placed with you while you engage in services, otherwise known as a case plan. It is imperative that details in representation are worked on before a case plan is assembled for your children to be returned to you. Sometimes, a case plan that is not carefully crafted to address your life and your situation will end up being a plan for eventual failure. By law, case plans must be carefully crafted to address the specific needs of the family. You deserve more than a standard case plan. This stage is important to the eventual outcome of your case. You will want a juvenile law attorney to advocate for you to have your children in your custody while you engage in a case plan. If your children are not in your custody you are entitled, by right, to a visitation

Again, a good advocate may be able to argue for a more liberal visitation plan thorough the juvenile dependency system. Other avenues are a possibility as opposed to jurisdiction, by way of negotiation or settlement, such as:

  • DISMISSAL
  • INFORMAL SUPERVISION
  • VOLUNTARY LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP

Dispositional Hearing

If the County convinces the court the petition is "true," then jurisdiction is taken by the Court over your children and family. The next stage is a dispositional hearing. The social worker at CPS/DFS prepares a case plan (mentioned above) and outlines the services that you will need to undergo in order to regain custody of your children and eventually close the case. You have the right to another trial at the dispositional stage. Even though dependency jurisdiction was taken by the Court, you still may argue for dismissal of the action or an informal supervision plan (see above). If the court disagrees, an effective advocate can still argue for a case plan that doesn’t overwhelm the parent – for example, combining two goals or intentions of dispositional plan into just one service.

If the matter proceeds to a disposition trial, otherwise known as a contest, all of the same procedural rights are afforded to the parents. The county must show by clear and convincing evidence that the children are at a substantial danger to the child’s physical health, safety, protection, or physical and emotional well-being and there is no reasonable way to protect the child from these dangers ’s home.

The burden upon social services CPS/CFS is much greater at the dispositional stage. It jumps from preponderance of the evidence to clear and convincing evidence. Your juvenile law attorney can strongly advocate for the return of the children or the continued placement of the children in the care of the parents at this dependency stage.

YOUR ATTORNEY SHOULD ADVOCATE FOR THE RETURN OF
YOUR CHILDREN WHENEVER APPROPRIATE.

At every stage of the proceeding, placement of the children is an issue. Your attorney can ask for return of the children at every single court hearing because placement is always relevant. Extended visitation is always at issue, and when appropriate, your lawyer will argue for more visitations along with less restrictions.

At every stage (detention hearing, jurisdictional hearing and dispositional hearing) of the proceedings, settlement negotiations will take place. This isn't the same as a civil trial, since the family is at stake. A good lawyer can negotiate less severe restrictions on visitation or other elements of the case plan. There may be advantages to settling the matter instead of moving forward to a trial where witnesses are called. Your experienced juvenile dependency attorney will advise what is best for your case and on these very important decisions.


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