Dispositional Hearings of CPS Investigation (Initial and Review) During a Sex Crime Case in Michigan

Child protective proceedings can be complicated, because there are so many different stages and potential outcomes it may seem like a maze of hearings, motions, and orders. However, in this section Grabel & Associates’ Child Protective Services attorneys seek to explain the entire process including the hearings, considerations, orders, and potential outcomes.

The dispositional phase of child protective proceedings encompasses four hearings:

  • Initial Dispositional Hearing
  • Dispositional Review Hearing
  • Permanency Planning Hearing
  • Termination of Parental Rights Hearings

Initial Dispositional Hearing

There is no sentencing phase in a protective adjudication proceeding, but the initial disposition serves a similar purpose. The child supervising agency will develop a case service plan with information and recommendations before the judge issues a dispositional order.

The initial disposition may occur immediately after the adjudication, or be scheduled not more than 28 days after the verdict without good cause. According to MCL 712A.18, a judge or referee may make a finding that the child is no longer under the jurisdiction of the court. If the court finds the child is no longer under the judge’s jurisdiction, then the court must dismiss the petition. This situation would occur if the judge believed the parents or guardian were making strong progress and were ready to move on.

If the court finds that the child is under the jurisdiction of the court, then the court is required to return the child to the parent or guardian’s home if it would not cause a substantial risk or harm to the child or society. Therefore, unless the court determines that returning the child home would cause substantial risk or harm to society, the child will return home with the parent or guardian after the initial dispositional hearing.

Case Service Plan

The purpose of the case service plan is to develop permanency for the child, to provide clarity about the future for the family, and to provide information and recommendations to the judge before he or she issues an order of disposition.

Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the case service plan will either seek to reunite the child and the family after certain guidelines are met, or advocate an alternative permanent home for the child such as foster care or adoption.

Under MCL 712A.18f(3), the case service plan must include the type of home or institution in which the child will be placed in, a schedule of the services to be provided to the parent and child, and efforts made to return the child to his or her home. If the child is removed from his or her home, the child must be placed in care as nearly as possible equivalent to the care that should have been given to the child by his or her parents.

The child supervising agency must develop a case service plan that includes the activities, responsibilities, and obligations of the parent or guardian, as well as, the activities, responsibilities, and obligations of the child supervising agency. The case service plan must make the plan available for review by all parties.

Motion for Review of Initial Service Plan and Placement

If placement of the child was ordered to be placed in foster care following the preliminary hearing, then the parent or guardian has a right under the law to require the court to review the initial service plan for potential modifications if it is in the child’s best interests. This right must be exercised by a written motion, and is enumerated in MCR 3.965(D)(4).

Order of Disposition

A parent who is established as unfit during the trial must “yield to the trial court’s dispositional orders regarding the child’s welfare.” The court must order terms and conditions of supervision, including rules governing the parents, guardian, or custodian as the court deems necessary for the physical, mental or moral well-being and behavior of the child. The court’s broad authority to issue dispositional orders extends to any conduct the court might find harmful to the child. Specifically, the court may order the parents, guardian, custodian, or any other person from continuing conduct that the court determines that has caused the child to come under the jurisdiction of the court or that obstructs or interferes with placement of the child.

Dispositional Review Hearings

Dispositional review hearings are conducted to permit the court to review the family’s progress with the orders of disposition and the case service plan. The first review hearing will be held not more than 182 days after the child was removed from their home. The subsequent review hearing will be scheduled for 91 days after the initial disposition or the last review hearing for the first year.

There are three determinations the judge or referee is required to make at a dispositional review hearing. First, the extent of compliance with the case service plan. Second, the extent to which the conditions that caused the child’s placement in foster care have been alleviated or mitigated. Third, the necessity and appropriateness of continuing the child’s placement outside of their parent or guardian’s home.

Early or Accelerated Review Hearings

The court may decide to have the hearing earlier than the maximum 182 days, or may decide to return the child to the parent or guardian’s home without a hearing. The law leaves the decision to the judge or referee’s discretion. However, the court will take into consideration the willingness and motivation of the parent or guardian to make the changes necessary to provide a suitable home environment for the child, and the reasonable likelihood that the child will be ready to return home earlier than the next scheduled dispositional review hearing.

If the child has not been removed from the parent or guardian’s home, then the purpose of the hearing is to monitor progress toward rectifying the circumstances that brought the child under the court’s jurisdiction. If the child has been removed from the parent or guardian’s home and is in foster care, then the court will decide the need and appropriateness of continuing foster care.

In making their decision the court will evaluate progress toward compliance with the case service plan including:

  • The frequency of parenting time or visitation
  • The extent to which the parent or guardian complied with the case service plan, court orders, and any agreements between the parent or guardian and the legal custodian and the child supervising agency
  • Any likely harm to the child if he or she continues to be separated from his or her parent or guardian
  • Any likely harm to the child if he or she is returned to the parent or guardian
  • How much the parent or guardian has benefited from the services offered or provided

Dispositional Review Orders

The court may order any of the following actions after a dispositional review hearing:

  • Order the child be returned home to the parent or guardian
  • Change the placement of the child
  • Modify the dispositional order
  • Modify any part of the case service plan
  • Enter a new dispositional order
  • Continue the original or prior dispositional order

Permanency Planning Hearing

Under MCL If parental rights have not been terminated, but the child remains in foster care, then the court must commence a permanency planning hearing within 12 months from the date the child was removed from his or her home. The purpose of a permanency planning hearing is to review the progress made toward returning the child home, and to demonstrate why the child should not be made a permeant ward of the court.

The court is required to take the following steps at a permanency planning hearing:

  • Review the permanency plan for a child in foster care and determine whether and when:
  • The Child may return home
  • A petition to terminate parental rights should be filed
  • the child may be placed in a legal guardianship
  • The child may be permanently placed with a fit and willing relative
  • The child may be placed in another permanent living arrangement, but only in cases where the agency presents a compelling reason as to why one of the first four options are not followed.

Termination of Parental Rights Hearings

The court may enter an order terminating parental rights at the initial dispositional hearing pursuant to a request in either an original or amended petition.

The court can order a parent not to attempt to reconnect with their child if at adjudication the trier of fact found one or more grounds of abuse or neglect were found by clear and convincing evidence.

Grabel & Associates Approach to Child Protective Proceedings and Dispositional Hearings

Grabel & Associate understands the necessary steps to obtain a favorable outcome during child protective proceedings. Our goal is to avoid convictions and prevent removal of a child from your home by winning dismissal of the petition at the preliminary hearing. If the petition has already been authorized or you have lost at trial and your child has been removed from the home, then our focus shifts to seeing your child released back home by demonstrating to the judge or referee that you have complied with all of the necessary orders and taken the steps to prepare your home for your child’s return.

Grabel & Associates has been specializing in the criminal defense of sex crimes and child protective proceedings for nearly 20 years, and we have the experience, knowledge, and winning track record to obtain a favorable outcome. Contact us online or call us 1-800-883-2138 today for a free consultation and to begin developing a personalized, aggressive, and comprehensive legal defense strategy.

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