The objective of those who process cases through the Family Court is to screen, review, and make legal determinations in cases where there are allegations of abuse and/or neglect of a child. The Family Court insures an impartial forum is provided to address these issues that involve the parents and their children. The following is the Court process:
- Petition filed by a party (usually the prosecuting attorney or the Department of Human Services)
- Court determines formal action to be taken at Preliminary Hearing/Inquiry and makes determinations on any requests for the placement of the child outside of the care of the parents.
- Attorneys can be appointed to represent the parents if financial guidelines are met. A fee for the appointment is assessed. An attorney must be appointed to represent the child.
- If case continues, the matter will be scheduled for a plea (parents admit allegations); or a trial (parents deny allegations). This is called adjudication.
- If Family Court determines there is a jurisdictional basis to proceed, the case will proceed to disposition.
- At disposition, the Family Court determines what actions are to be taken.
- The Family Court will continue to review the case until the case is closed.
Court Outcomes and Possible Dispositions
Once the Family Court has determined there is a jurisdictional basis to continue at the adjudication, the Court must determine what action will be taken. The Court must determine whether the child should be continued with or reunified with the parents; whether to pursue a guardianship; whether to seek long term placement with a fit relative; in severe cases, whether to pursue an adoption, if parental rights have been terminated, or to seek another option.
The Family Court can order the parents, other adults, or the child to be involved in the following services. (List may not be all inclusive)
- Warn the parents
- substance abuse
- anger management
- domestic violence
- sexual issues
- Drug Screens/Testing
- Maintain Employment/Adequate Housing
- Parenting Classes
- Support/Reimbursement for services or to care for the child
- Termination of Parental Rights in Specified or Severe Cases