Child Protective Proceedings

The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over child protective proceeding cases. These cases are filed by private individuals and the Department of Health and Human Services.  

Child Protective Proceedings Process

Cases begin with a petition filed in the Juvenile Court. These petitions may request in-home jurisdiction or may request removal of children from their parents or guardians. Petitioners, parents, and guardians appear for a preliminary hearing where the Court must decide:

  • Whether to authorize the filed petition
  • Whether to remove or return the children to parents
  • What contact children have with parents during the case

Respondent Rights & Options

Respondents have a right to be represented at all stages of these court proceedings. The Court will appoint attorneys for each named respondent on a case unless advised that counsel has been retained.

If the petition is authorized at a preliminary hearing, the Court will set the case for further hearings. Respondents have the opportunity to:

  • Admit
  • Deny
  • Plead no contest
  • Stand silent as to the allegations in the petition

If a respondent does not plead to allegations, the respondent has the right to take the case to a trial in front of a judge or jury. At the trial, the judge or jury will decide if respondents are responsible for one or more of the allegations in the petition and if those allegations are sufficient for the Court to have jurisdiction over the minor children. Parties have the right to appeal the Court's decision. 

Potential Outcomes

If the Court takes jurisdiction through a plea or trial, the Court may issue different dispositions including:

  • Case closure
  • In-home placement with or without services
  • Out-of-home placement with services
  • Termination of parental rights 

Termination of Parental Rights

A petition may request termination of parental rights at the initial disposition. The Court must decide if the facts of the case:

  1. Meet the statutory standards under the child protection law and 
  2. Meet the best interest standards of the child or children

This request may come in the initial filed petition or it may come after a case service plan is in place for a period of time. If the request is not granted, the case will continue unless modified by the Court. If the request is granted, the Court will terminate parental rights. 

Parties have the right to appeal the Court's decision within 21 days. 

Respondent & Child Representation

Respondents have a right to court appointed counsel at these hearings.  An attorney will be provided for each party unless the party retains counsel. 

Children will be appointed a guardian ad litem to represent their best interests at every hearing.  

Each parent is individually responsible for paying back all of his/her court-appointed attorney’s fees, the guardian ad litem’s fees, and other associated costs subject to findings on the ability to pay.