In the previous installment in this series on CPS petitions, we looked at everything in the process that leads up to the trial. Moving forward, we are going to look at exactly what is involved in an abuse or neglect trial in family court. If you are only joining us now, we recommend that you spend a few minutes catching up by reading the previous two articles in this series.
If you elected not to enter a plea, or the Judge chose not to dismiss the allegations against you, then the next step in the process is a trial. This can be held in front of a jury, or it can be held in front of a Judge or referee. You will have some input, for a limited time, on which of these options works best for your case. We recommend that talk to your attorney about what will be best in your specific situation.
The trial is held in order to determine whether or not the allegations against you are true. If your lose at trial, then the court will take custody of your children, either temporarily or permanently, depending on what kind of petition was filed by CPS. In order for CPS to prove to the court that you are guilty of the accusations they have made, they are required to use a preponderance of the evidence as the standard of proof.
This means that the state is obligated to prove that it is more likely than not, that your child was abused or neglected by you. This is not the same standard of proof required in a criminal trial, where the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.The standard of proof used in family law court is actually lower, and therefore it is easier for CPS to “prove” their accusations. The only instance where the standard of proof is heightened, is when CPS is seeking to terminate your parental rights.
The trial will be similar to a criminal trial, in that both CPS and the attorney of the accused will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses to support their claims. If the Judge or jury has decided that the claims are unsubstantiated, your child will be returned to you (assuming they had been removed by CPS) your name will be removed from the Central Registry, and the petition will be dismissed.
If however, the Judge or jury decide at trial that your child was abused or neglected, a dispositional hearing will be held. This is where the court decides what needs to be done in the wake of the decision. Dispositional hearings are supposed to happen within 28 days of the completion of the trial. At this hearing the court can do one of the following things:
- Dismiss the petition and issue a warning to you
- Order your family to cooperate with in-home services suggested by CPS
- Order you to leave your family home and live elsewhere
- Order the removal of your child, and have them placed with a relative or in foster care
- Appoint your child a guardian who will watch over them and keep the court updated about their safety and progress
- Order you to pay child support
- Terminate your parental rights, however this would only be in a case where the petition filed by CPS was for a termination of parental rights.
If the court decides that your child was abused or neglected, (unless they have terminated your parental rights) CPS is still required to create a reunification plan. This means that they will create a plan that you will be required to comply with, in order to be reunited with your child. This could include any number of things including parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, regular ‘drops’ to check for continued sobriety, and supervised visitation.
While your child is under the jurisdiction of the court, they are required to perform regular reviews of your case. Ideally, this is so that the court can determine if the family needs additional services, is benefitting from the current services, and whether or not the children can be returned to their family.
If you have any other questions about the court process involved with a CPS petition, or what happens after CPS accuses you of abuse or neglect, contact our skilled family law attorneys. Also, if you or a loved one need help with CPS, contact our family law offices immediately at 886 1000. Our experienced defense attorneys have spent decades defending the families of mid-Michigan against invasive and overzealous CPS workers. We have helped keep many families together, and have protected many accused parents from false accusations. We can help you too!