The hearing is closed to the public. Generally, only the parties to the case are able to be in the hearing and other witnesses have to wait outside of the courtroom. For all parties, you have the opportunity to go over the caseworker’s Affidavit or report and hear the reasons why your child was removed from your case. You can respond to the report and tell your side to the Judge, your able to cross-examine witnesses, you have a right to an attorney at the hearing; or either hire your own attorney or to see if you qualify for a court appointed attorney.

At the hearing that DCF presents, DCF is the Petitioner. You also get to present your case and you can bring witnesses forward, you can have evidence, you can attack the evidence from DCF and cross-examine their witnesses. The judge will then decide what would occur with your child. The Judge can decide and this is only on a temporary custody, whether DCF should have temporary custody, whether a relative of yours should have temporary custody, which you can request a “Third Party Custody Hearing” along with a family friend or whether you or the other legal parent or guardian would get custody back.

If the child is not returned to your custody, it does not mean that the case is over; in fact, even if you get custody, you still are involved one way or another and the case is not dismissed at a 72-Hour Hearing. It is not permanent custody and your parental rights are not terminated.

If your child is placed with DCF, then DCF is the one that is then responsible for the care of your child and DCF will decide where your child lives, how often you will visit with your child and how to address school and medical issues. This is something where the court has jurisdiction, but is it limited, the court does not look at what is in the child’s best interest if DCF has custody, but would determine whether DFC has abused the discretion or not.

Again, DCF might even determine, even if the child is in their custody to return placement to you.