These hearings are only after the court makes jurisdictional findings. Once the court finds any of the allegations true, this hearing is held to determine what to do with the child and whether to give the parents services.
– One exception is if the county is asking to bypass services. The law states the hearing must be held “within” thirty days, so if. (WIC 358.)
The court can extend this time period for 15 more days for “good cause.” (WIC 358.)
– The other exception is when the court finds good cause to continue the matter beyond what WIC 358 allows. However, the court is still expected to hold the dispositional hearing no later than 60 days from the date of detention and in no event later than six months after detention. (WIC 352.)
The standard of proof to remove a child from the custody of a parent is clear and convincing evidence of risk of future harm. This standard of proof is a higher standard than a preponderance and equates roughly to a 75% chance. When a child is not removed from the parents, it is within the judge’s discretion to determine if a case should stay open to provide services to the family.
Grounds for removal
The court may remove a child from the custody of one or both parents if the court finds there is clear and convincing evidence of the following:
– There is a substantial danger to the physical health, safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being of the child, and there are no reasonable means to protect the child without removal.
– The parent is unwilling to have the child return home.
– The child is suffering emotional damage, and there are no reasonable means to protect without removal.
– The child or a sibling has been sexually abused or is at risk of sexual abuse, and there are no reasonable means to protect the child without removal OR the child does not wish to return home.
Outcomes at a Dispositional Hearing
There are several options at a dispositional hearing. The court should pick the least restrictive and least intrusive option necessary to protect the child.
– Close the case and refer the case to voluntary services. (WIC 360(b).) This outcome is a VERY RARE recommendation after a petition is filed. If Child Protective Services (CPS) feels this is appropriate, they will usually ask a parent to participate in voluntary services BEFORE CPS files a petition.
– Leave the child in the home and provide services under Family Maintenance. (WIC 360, 364.)
– Remove the child from one parent, give the child to the other parent, and either 1) close out the case with family law type orders or 2) keep the case open and provide services to the parents. (WIC 361.2.)
– Remove the child from the custody of both parents and offer Family Reunification Services. (WIC 361, 361.2)
– Remove the child from the custody of both parents and deny services entirely under certain severe circumstances. This outcome is often called a “bypass” recommendation and results in a hearing being set wherein your parental rights could be terminated. (WIC 361.5)
– If the parents state they are not interested in Family Maintenance or Family Reunification Services, and with the agreement of the parents and child, the court can appoint a Legal Guardian for the child. (WIC 360.)
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