Abused, Neglected or Dependent Children

If your children are being abused, neglected or are dependent for support upon a non-parent, an action can be filed in Juvenile Court. The court will hold a hearing to decide the facts. The court will decide what action to take to protect the children.

Any person with knowledge including a Children’s Services caseworker can file this action. The complaint must state facts that show that a child is abused, neglected or dependent.

There are three hearings. The first hearing, called a shelter care hearing, must be held within 72 hours after the child is placed in detention or shelter care or the next day, whichever is earlier. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether detention or shelter care is needed. Before the hearing the court must tell the parties about their right to counsel. At the hearing the court may consider any evidence; it is not limited by the formal rules of evidence. The court will determine if there are any suitable relatives where the child could be placed and who is willing to act as temporary custodians.

The second hearing, an adjudicatory hearing, will be held within thirty days after the complaint is filed. A continuance may be granted to extend the time to no later than sixty days after the complaint is filed. At this hearing, the Court will determine whether the child is abused, neglected or dependent.

The Court can issue temporary orders before the second hearing.

These orders must be in the best interest of the child. They can include:

  • granting temporary custody to a parent, relative or other person or agency;
  • changing visitation rights;
  • child support or health insurance orders;
  • orders requiring a party to leave a residence;
  • orders for counseling;
  • restraining orders ;
  • orders for testing for physical examination, psychological evaluation and drug/alcohol testing;
  • to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate and make recommendations to the court on behalf of the child.

After this hearing, the third or ‘dispositional’ hearing is scheduled to decide the final resolution of the case. This third hearing is to be held at least one day but not more than thirty days after the second hearing. A continuance may be granted to extend the time to no later than ninety days after the filing of the complaint.

All witnesses and evidence about the case should be at the hearing.

Following the hearing, the court can:

  • place the child in protective supervision;
  • place the child in the temporary custody of a children services agency (foster care);
  • give legal custody to either parent or any other person who has requested legal custody;
  • place the child in the permanent custody of a children service agency; or
  • place the child in long-term foster care.


Parents have the right to request a court appointed attorney if a state agency has filed to terminate parental rights or seek custody in Juvenile Court. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should contact the court to request one.

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice. Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012. CE-42-F167-CLAS