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Court Process / Outcomes - Protective Proceedings 



The objective of those who process cases through the Family Court is to screen, review, and make legal determinations in cases where there are allegations of abuse and/or neglect of a child.  The Family Court insures an impartial forum is provided to address these issues that involve the parents and their children.  The following is the Court process:
  • Investigation/Filing of Petition
    • A case is typically investigated by Child Protective Services (a division of the Department of Health and Human Services) prior to coming to court.
    • After investigation, a petition is filed by a party (usually the Prosecuting Attorney or the Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Preliminary Inquiry/Hearing
    • The Court determines whether formal action is to be taken at Preliminary Hearing/Inquiry
    • If the children have been removed or if there is a request for removal, the Court must make a determination regarding this request for the placement of the child outside of the care of the parents.
    • If requested by a respondent, an attorney may be appointed to represent the parent if financial guidelines are met.  A fee for the appointment may be assessed.  An attorney must be appointed to represent the child.
    • After deciding the issue of placement, the Court may adjourn the Preliminary Hearing for up to 14 days for good cause.
  • Pretrial
    • A pretrial conference will be scheduled after the Preliminary Hearing to determine whether the matter will be scheduled for a plea (parents admit allegations); or a trial (parents deny allegations).
  • Adjudication
    • This is the phase where the Court aquires formal jurisdiction over the minor children.  This may be done through an admission by the parents to an allegation in the petition (plea) or by proof of the allegations in the petition (trial). 
    • Respondents have the right to a jury trial regarding the allegations in the petition.
  • Disposition
    • If the Court acquires formal jurisdiction over the children at adjudication, the case will proceed to disposition.
    • At disposition, the Family Court determines what actions are to be taken.  The Court may order a parent or a nonparent adult to participate in services or take any other action that the Court deems in the best interest of the minor child. 
  • Dispositional Reviews
    • The Court will continue to review the case until the case is closed.  At the review hearings, the Court will determine parental compliance with services and any benefit to the parent from participation in those services.  The Court may modify the service plan if it is in the best interest of the minor child(ren).
  • Permanency Planning Hearing
    • The Court must conduct a permanency planning hearing before the one-year anniversary of the child's removal date.  The Court must decide which permency plan is in the best interest of the child in order to keep the case moving forward.
  • Termination
    • In some cases, the Petitioner (usually the Prosecuting Attorney or the Department of Health and Human Services) will seek termination of parental rights.  If this is the case, a supplemental petition is filed, the case is set for pretrial, and the parties will meet to discuss how the termination petition should be handled.

Court Outcomes and Possible Dispositions

Once the Family Court has acquired formal jurisdiction of the minor children at adjudication (plea or trial), the Court must determine what action will be taken in the case.  The Court may order a parent, other nonparent adult, or the child to be involved in the following services.  (List may not be all inclusive)
  • Warn the parents
  • Counseling
    • substance abuse
    • anger management
    • domestic violence
    • individual
    • sexual issues
    • family
  • Assessments
    • psychological
    • substance abuse
    • psychiatric
  • Drug Screens/Testing
  • Maintain Employment/Adequate Housing
  • Parenting Classes
  • Support/Reimbursement for services or to care for the child
  • Termination of Parental Rights in Specified or Severe Cases