There is a process in which DCF files a care & protection case with an Affidavit based on an “emergency” and typically only DCF will be at court. There is supposed to be within 3 days the beginning of a 72-hour hearing to review the custody, which is without prejudice. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than the 3 days, but that is the requirement.
It is standard that during that period DCF is supposed to develop what is called a “Service Plan” and is now called an “Action Plan”; which the family can work in negotiating the services that are supposed to address the alleged issues that brought the family to court and to DCF.
Generally, about 60 days or so, a court investigation report is due and that is similar to a Guardian-ad-Litem in Probate Court; where the court appoints a neutral person that is supposed to write a report and make recommendations that is not part of DCF or representing anybody.
Then approximately 90 days from the date of the filing, there is something that is called a “Motion Status Conference” where many times the parents and even the DCF worker are not obligated to be present and where a lot of the procedural issues are dealt with and there is a report.
Usually about 30 days or longer there is something that is called a “Pre-trial Conference date”. This date is where the case gets ready for trial, and again, during any of these processes even the Motion Status Date case can get dismissed or different things can happen. You can also file an “Abuse and Discretion Motion” or other motions during this period.
In addition, if the case is continuing in approximately 6 months there is a Foster Care Review, where the children are in DCF custody and placed outside of the family home. In about 9 months is when DCF has something that is called a “Permanency Planning Conference”; which is an internal conference to determine what DCF believes the goal of the family is. DCF is supposed to file that plan with the Court and there can be review dates.
Usually, anywhere from 9 months to 15 months out there is a hearing on the merits or a trial. This is a general guideline for a timeframe, but it can be different in different courts or in different circumstances.