As a parent, there can be nothing more horrific than someone trying to take away your child. If your parental rights are terminated, you no longer have any legal rights, privileges, duties or obligations regarding your children. We represent parents facing abuse and neglect petitions.
Abuse and Neglect cases begin with the State filing an abuse or neglect petition in the family court. If the Judge determines that there is evidence that you abused or neglected your child, the Judge may award protective supervision or legal custody to the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). DCYF can remove your child from your parental care and custody and determine where and with whom your children will live.
The first hearing is usually the preliminary hearing. The Judge will determine whether your child’s circumstances or surroundings present an immediate danger to your child’s health or life or whether there is reasonable cause to believe that your child has been abused and/or neglected. If such a preliminary determination is made the case will be scheduled for an Adjudicatory Hearing (trial).
At trial, the Judge will listen to the evidence presented by the parents and DCYF. The burden is on DCYF to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the abuse or neglect occurred as alleged in the petition. ( Preponderance of the Evidence means more probable than not). If the Judge determines that your children were not abused and/or neglected the case will be DISMISSED. However, if the Judge determines that your children were abused and/or neglected, a finding of “True” will be entered and the matter and the matter scheduled for a dispositional hearing. The Judge will order DCYF to compile a social study consisting of the home conditions, family background, financial assessment, school records and the mental, physical and social history of the family.
Sometimes parents elect not to proceed to trial but, rather, enter into a consent decree. This is akin to pleading guilty in a criminal case. Hence, a parent who enters into consent decree is acknowledging that the abuse and/or neglect petition is true, forfeiting their right to a trial and to appeal.
If there is a finding of “True” albeit after trial or by way of a consent decree the case will be scheduled for a dispositional hearing. The Court will review the social study of the child’s family and consider all recommendations from the parties. The court will then approve or craft a case plan that will outline what you must do to correct the conditions that led to the finding of “True”.
Most importantly, in the event of a finding of “True” you have 12 months from the date of the finding to correct the conditions that led to the finding. If, at the end of this 12 month period your children have been in an out-of-home placement and you have not corrected the conditions that led to the finding of abuse and/or neglect, your child may be removed permanently if DCYF files a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights and the petition is granted.
Call today if you are facing an abuse/neglect petition. The consultation is always free.
Our telephone number is: 603-595-5525