Child Left at Home Under Court Jurisdiction During a Sex Crime Investigation in Michigan
A child comes under the jurisdiction of the court only after an adjudicative child protective proceeding results in a verdict favoring the petitioner.
If a child is under the jurisdiction of the court, then the court must have decided that there was a preponderance of evidence that abuse or neglect of a child had occurred.
If the child or children were removed from the home, there are many opportunities left to have your child or children returned home in the upcoming stages of the proceedings. The first opportunity is at the initial dispositional hearing, and may occur either immediately after trial or within 28 days of the verdict. The first dispositional review hearing is required to be held within 182 days of the date the child was removed from their home, and each subsequent dispositional review hearing must be held within 91 days of the previous review hearing for the first year. After the first year of review hearings, the time spacing increases to 182 days between each dispositional review hearing. With persistence and resolve your attorney will help advocate for the successful return of your child or children.
If a child is under the jurisdiction of the court, but has never been removed from their home, then a dispositional review hearing is required to be held within 182 days from the date the petition was first filed and then every 91 days after that. After the first year of hearings, the time spacing will also increase to every 182 days from the preceding review hearing. The court will review the placement of the child in the home and decide if the case should be dismissed.
Accelerating the Timeline
The preceding timelines for review hearings are the requirements the courts are legally mandated to uphold, but under MCL 712A.19(2), the court has the discretion to hold the next review hearing sooner. Additionally, a CPS attorney can always make a motion for the court to accelerate the time for the next review hearing to review any element of the Service Plan including the current placement of the child or children.
Child Protective Services Investigation
A Child Protective Service’s investigation begins with a complaint, and the investigation begins within 24 hours. A Child Protective Services caseworker will conduct an investigation of the home to assess the environment and to verify the child’s safety. The purpose of the investigation is to establish if there is a preponderance of the evidence of abuse or neglect. A preponderance of the evidence is when a fact in dispute is more likely to be true than not or is 51% likely to be true.
The Child Protective Services caseworker also conducts two structured decision-making tools called a safety assessment and a risk of future harm assessment. The risk assessment is one of the two main components that is used in determining which of the five categories a family’s file is placed. The risk assessment has two parts, there is a risk scale and a neglect scale. Both scales have 11 factors and the higher of the two scores is used to determine the future harm to the child. The potential results of the risk assessment for the risk of future harm to the child are low, moderate, high, and intensive.
Child Protective Services will complete their investigation within 30 days and determine which of the five categories a family is placed. The five categories are used to determine how Child Protective Services should proceed. If Child Protective Services does not uncover a preponderance of evidence of abuse or neglect, then the claim is unsubstantiated and placed in either a category five or a category four.
A category five is an unsubstantiated claim where there is no future risk of harm to the child. A category four is an unsubstantiated claim, but the risk assessment indicates a low risk of future harm to the child. A category three is a substantiated claim that includes a risk assessment result of moderate to high. A category three case will include recommendations for the family to participate in community-based services. Category three will not result in an entry to the central registry unless the alleged abuser was not a family member.
Category two is a substantiated claim with a high or intensive risk of future harm to the child. The alleged abuser will be placed in the central registry and if the recommended community services are not followed through then the family may be elevated to a category one. Category one is the most serious and occurs when a claim is substantiated and it is determined that it is necessary to remove the child from their home for their protection. This is the point at which Child Protective Services will file a petition for removal and placement of the child outside of their home.
This may mark the end of the investigation, but it is only the beginning of the child protective proceedings. Most of the investigation is autonomously decided by the caseworker with the exception of the requirement that their supervisor approve their decisions and classifications, but once the petition is filed a judge or referee will listen to both sides. Your attorney will have the opportunity to make your case.
Petition for Removal and a Preliminary Hearing
A petition for removal and placement of the child will be filed with the Family Division of the Circuit Court of the county where the child resides, and will include allegations of abuse and neglect gathered during the course of the investigation. The first step will be for a preliminary hearing to be held. There are two decisions that are required to be made at the preliminary hearing. First, whether the judge or referee should authorize the petition to move forward to trial, and where the child or children should be placed. If the petition is not authorized then the child or children are automatically released to the parents. If the petition is authorized then the court must decide whether to release the child back to the parents, a relative, or place the child in temporary foster care pending a trial.
What Does Under the Jurisdiction of the Court Mean?
After a preliminary hearing there may be a pretrial conference and that represents an opportunity to set a settlement resolution, but it is also the stage in the child protective proceedings when a decision will be made whether to go to trial. There are several options for going to trial. A person can decide to have a trial by jury presided over by a judge, or elect for a bench trial held by either a judge or referee. The decision should be made in coordination with your attorney.
The trial in a child protective proceeding is often called an adjudicative hearing. The adjudicative hearing is the time to test the merits of the allegations contained in the petition. The petitioner is the party who brought the claim and, in most cases, will be The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The petitioner at a child protective trial has the burden of proof, which in an abuse and neglect trial is a preponderance of the evidence. If the petitioner fails to meet their burden of proof then the judge, referee, or jury will return a verdict for the parent or guardian and the child will not be under the jurisdiction of the court. This means the trial is over and there will be no further action required. The children will be free to return home.
If the finder of fact determines that the burden of proof has been met, then the judge, referee, or jury will return a verdict that the child is under the jurisdiction of the court and may include a special finding that the parent is unfit. The child being under the jurisdiction of the court means that the court now has legal custody over the child and will be able to place physical custody of the child with the parents, relatives, or with the agency responsible for placing the child in foster care.
The Initial Dispositional Hearing
The initial dispositional hearing may be held in conjunction with the verdict, but it requires prior planning during the pretrial conference. If the initial dispositional hearing is not held immediately after the adjudicative hearing, then it must be held within 28 days of the verdict. The purpose of the initial dispositional hearing is to decide the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the parents, children, and the child supervising agency.
The initial dispositional hearing is similar to a sentencing hearing in criminal cases. The judge can order the child to be placed with their parents, relatives, or in foster care. The optimal resolution after the child has been found to be under the jurisdiction of the court is for the child to be placed back at home with their parents.
Dispositional Review Hearing
The first dispositional review hearing occurs within 182 days of the child being removed from the home and then every 91 days after that. The dispositional review hearing is another opportunity for the judge to review the children and parent or guardian’s progress and evaluate if the placement arrangement is appropriate under the circumstances. The judge may find that the parents or guardian are doing well and decide to place the children back with their parents. Some considerations the judge or referee will evaluate in making his or her decision are whether the parents or guardian have rectified the situations or conditions that led the child to come under the jurisdiction of the court and whether the parents have been participating and adhering to the specifications and guidelines detailed in the Service Plan issued by the child supervising agency. If the parents or guardians have been consistent and diligent in following expectations, then with proper representation there is a strong possibility the child may be ordered home to live with their parents or guardians.
If the judge or referee decides to leave the existing child placement plan in place, then the parents will have another opportunity to try again at the next dispositional review hearing within 182 days. However, there is another important consideration during the initial dispositional review hearing and subsequent dispositional review hearing, which is the possibility of expedited scheduling for the following review hearing. If the judge believes that the parent or guardian has made substantial improvements and believes that the full 91day period may not be necessary then they can schedule the next hearing much sooner to provide a new hearing to potentially revise the placement conditions of the child or children.
Permanency Planning Hearings
Permanency planning hearings are required to be held within 182 days of a child being removed from their home. The judge or referee has broad discretion during permanency planning hearings to evaluate and determine a wide range of decisions relating to parental care and the living conditions of the child or children. Interestingly, it is not uncommon to evaluate seemingly contrary contingency plans during the same hearing. For instance, the judge or referee will evaluate a potential timeline for the child to return home, and may also determine a timeline for scheduling a termination of parental rights hearing.
Grabel & Associates is the Premier Law Firm for Child Protective Services Cases in Michigan
If your child has come under the jurisdiction of the court, but is already at home, then the object is to win your next dispositional review hearing and have the case dismissed. If your child has come under the jurisdiction of the court, but is temporarily in foster care or living with a relative, then the objective is to have the child returned home at your next dispositional review hearing.
Grabel & Associates has been specializing in Child Protective Services proceedings for more than 19 years. Call 1-800-883-2138 twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for a free consultation and case evaluation or contact us online to set up an appointment.