Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
Attorney Michael S. Parousis represents those who find themselves involved with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
What is the Department of Children and Families?
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is the state’s child protection agency. It is DCF’s responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect.
What is a care and protection case?
A care and protection case begins when someone, usually the Department of Children and Families (DCF), claims in a petition to the court, that your child is at risk of abuse or neglect while in your care. The care and protection case will be heard in Juvenile Court by a judge.
A care and protection case is not a criminal case.
A care and protection case can result in the termination of your parental rights to your child. You must address the abuse and neglect allegations immediately because the length of a Care and Protection case is only 12-15 months.
This hearing often takes place in the Juvenile Court when you are not present.
The law permits this type of hearing to remove custody of a child from a parent or guardian in emergency circumstances. If the judge allows DCF’s request for custody, DCF may remove your child from your care. The case must then be scheduled for a hearing within 72 hours to review the order of custody. You will receive notice of this hearing and have an opportunity to be present and represented by counsel.
Temporary Custody Hearing
This hearing is also called a 72-hour hearing. This hearing is referred to as a 72-hour hearing because it is scheduled to take place within 72 hours of the removal of your child from your care.
You have the right to be present and have an attorney represent you.
Your attorney may present witnesses about the allegations being made and ask questions as to why your child was removed from your care. The judge will hear the evidence, decide who will have temporary custody of your child and in most cases, give his or her decision as soon as the 72-hour hearing ends.
This is a temporary decision of the court and you will have the opportunity to come back to court for other types of hearings.
This is a hearing that takes place in front of a judge within ninety (90) days after the case is opened. Your attorney may ask the judge to have DCF give him or her all the agency’s records on your family. Your attorney may also ask the judge to give you longer or more frequent visits, or for other things that will help you with your case.
This is a hearing in front of a judge that takes place within one-hundred and twenty (120) days after the case is opened.
All attorneys involved in the case will meet with one another before the hearing and discuss the issues of the case. The attorneys prepare a pre-trial conference report and give it to the judge. The report will list the documents that may be entered in evidence during a trial and list witnesses that may testify at trial. The report will also discuss the possibility of settlement of the case. It is important to meet with your attorney prior to his or her meeting with the other attorneys so he or she can prepare for this important meeting, prepare the pre-trial report and be prepared to tell the judge what you would like to see happen in your case.
Hearing on the Merits
The trial, also known as the “hearing on the merits,” will occur within 12-15 months from the time your case was filed.
The petitioner, usually DCF, must prove that you are not fit to parent your child.
DCF will then present a plan for where your child will live. You will have an opportunity to tell your side of the story, present your own witnesses and testify on your own behalf. You can ask the judge to return custody to you or offer another plan for where your child should live. F.
Possible Outcomes of the Hearing on the Merits
- Return the child to your custody.
- Place the child with another parent.
- Place the child with a relative or family friend.
- Order a “guardianship” for your child if someone files a guardianship petition.
- Place the child in DCF’s legal custody until the child is eighteen.
- Terminate your parental rights. Termination of parental rights means that you will lose your right to parent your child forever and another family will have the opportunity to adopt your child.
If you do not complete services and address your issues, your parental rights may be terminated. Termination of rights is a very serious result. You will lose the right to parent your child forever and your child may be adopted without your consent. Even if your child is not adopted after a termination of parental rights, you do not have the option of requesting reunification in the future.
WHY CHOOSE ATTORNEY MICHAEL S. PAROUSIS FOR YOUR FAMILY LAW CASE?
It is very difficult to face DCF without legal representation. Because there is a possibility you could lose custody of your child(ren), you should always seek the advice of an attorney.
Attorney Michael Parousis represents parents where a care and protection case has been filed against them and are being investigated by DCF.