Ita M. Neymotin, Regional Counsel

Dependency Case Process

A dependency action is when a case is brought before the Court based on allegations of abuse, abandonment and/or neglect of a child. The proceeding is based on allegations communicated to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Shelter Hearing

DCF will investigate the allegations, and if they believe the child has either been abused, abandoned, or neglected, DCF will remove the child from the custody of their parents or guardian. Within 24 hours of the child's removal, the court must have a hearing to determine if the child remains out of the parent's or guardian's custody. At this point, if the parents or guardian are indigent, the court may appoint an attorney. The attorneys will be from Regional Counsel. At this point the Regional Counsel attorneys will explain the situation to the parents or guardians and advocate in the best interests of their client. Additionally the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, who is an independent attorney that advocates for the interests of the child. If the child remains sheltered, then the Judge gives an arraignment court date.

Arraignment Hearing

At the arraignment hearing, the Court will read the allegations in the petition and ask the parents or guardian through their attorney to respond. The parents/guardian may admit, consent or deny the allegations contained in the dependency petition.

Admit: Parent/Guardian agrees with the allegations in the petition.

Consent: Parent/Guardian does not agree or deny the allegations, but lets the court move forward with the case plan.

Deny: Parent/Guardian denies the allegations in the petition.

If the parent/guardian admits or consents to the petition, then DCF prepares a case plan which will outline the steps they believe must be taken for the family to resolve the issues brought up in the petition.

Adjudicatory Hearing

If the parent/guardian denies the allegations, an adjudicatory hearing is scheduled. An adjudicatory hearing is akin to a trial, where witnesses may be called to testify about the allegations in the case. The Judge will rule on the finding of dependency themselves, as there is no jury. If the case is proven, the court will schedule a disposition hearing. If not the case will be dismissed.

Disposition Hearing

At the disposition hearing, the court will take DCF's case plan into consideration and the court will issue their findings.

Judicial Review

A few months after a disposition hearing, the court may schedule a Judicial Review Hearing. At this hearing the court will review the child's placement, the progress of the case plan, and if everyone involved is doing what he or she is supposed to be doing.

Termination of Parental Rights

In some cases, DCF may file for a Termination of Parental Rights. The TPR is asking the court to end all legal rights by the parents/guardians to the child. The parent/guardian is given an opportunity to respond to the TPR. The court will then rule on the TPR.


Disclaimer: None of the above constitutes legal advice. Please consult your attorney to discuss your case.