When a child is reportedly abused, neglected, or the parents are unable to care for the child, the Missouri Children's Division may step in to take temporary custody of the child. Custody proceedings will be held to determine if the child should be temporarily placed with the state, relatives, or returned to the parents. The child's custody status is later reviewed and may result in permanent custody.
At the Higher Level Legal Law Firm, we work with parents or family members to regain custody of their children. We represent parents through dependency proceedings to make sure their children are quickly returned home. Our team is an experienced law firm with years of experience in dependency and custody proceedings who will put that experience to work for you.
What is a Dependency Proceeding?
A juvenile can be taken into judicial custody by a court order or when law enforcement or a juvenile officer has reasonable cause to believe the child is in imminent danger of suffering physical harm or threat to life as a result of abuse or neglect. After a child is taken into judicial custody, a dependency hearing takes place to determine who should get temporary custody of the juvenile.
The Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services handles investigations and family assessments in response to reports of child abuse. Generally, an investigator initiates an investigation or family assessment within 24 hours of a report of abuse. If there is concern that a child is in imminent danger, a law enforcement officer, physician, or juvenile officer has the authority to place the child in temporary protective custody.
Rule 124 provides the procedures for child custody hearings related to child abuse and neglect proceedings. Dependency proceedings can involve a number of hearings and reviews to determine temporary custody, whether the child should be returned to the parents, or whether parental rights should be terminated.
Dependency proceedings involve a child who is alleged to be in need of care and treatment because the parents or guardians neglect or refuse to provide proper
- Medical care,
- Surgical care, or
- Other care necessary for the child's well-being.
Dependency Proceeding Hearings
When a juvenile is in temporary protective custody, the initial protective custody hearing is generally held within three days (excluding weekends and holidays). During the protective custody hearing, the court will make a determination on the following:
- Whether the juvenile can safely return home immediately; and
- Whether the Children's Division made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the juvenile from the home; or
- Whether an emergency required the juvenile to be taken into judicial custody and that, as a result, the Children's Division is deemed to have made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the juvenile from the home; and
- Whether continuation of the juvenile in the home is contrary to the welfare of the juvenile.
If the court determines that the child should not be released home, the child will be placed into protective custody pending further proceedings.
An adjudication hearing is to be held within 60 days of the date the juvenile is taken into custody. During the hearing, the court will make a determination as to the allegations in the petition or motion. All parties, including a guardian ad litem, will be able to testify, present evidence, examine witnesses, and present arguments.
The judge will then enter judgment whether the juvenile should be returned to the juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian, or whether to keep the child in protective custody. A dispositional hearing may directly follow the adjudication hearing or scheduled separately.
A dispositional hearing is to be held within 90 days of the date the juvenile is taken into custody. During the dispositional hearing, the court, in accordance with the best interests of the juvenile, determines the legal and physical custody of the juvenile and on the services required to reunify the family.
If a juvenile is in the legal custody of the Children's Division after the dispositional hearing, dispositional review hearings are to be held every 90 to 120 days. These review hearings may update the parents' progress, review home safety and care issues, and determine if the child should be returned home or to continue judicial custody.
A permanency hearing is to be held within 12 months after the juvenile is taken into custody, and annually as needed. During a permanency hearing, the court will consider any permanency plans proposed for the juvenile. Permanency plans may include reunification with the family, adoption, or terminating the parents' rights.
When granting legal and physical custody of the juvenile, the court may grant custody to a parent, guardian, custodian, or relieve the Child's Division of custody. In making the determination for the juvenile's custody, the court considers the following factors.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the juvenile with the foster parents, siblings, and other significant parties.
- The juvenile's adjustment to the foster home, school, and community.
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse.
- The needs of the juvenile for a continuing relationship with the parents, and the ability and willingness of the parents to actively meet the needs of the juvenile.
False Claims of Abuse During Child Custody Disputes
In highly contested divorces, separations, or child custody disputes, one party may make a false claim of abuse or neglect against the other. False claims of abuse can not only be damaging for the innocent parent, but it can also be harmful to the child. If another person made a false claim of abuse or neglect in a child custody dispute, talk to an attorney as soon as possible to make sure you do not lose custody of your child.
Missouri Lawyer for Dependency Proceedings
The most important dependency proceeding after the state takes custody of a child is generally the initial protective custody hearing. Failing to prepare for the protective custody hearing may mean it will take a month or more before you can get your child back home. An experienced dependency hearing lawyer will represent your interests before the court to demonstrate why returning your child to your home is in the child's best interests.
Consult with an Experienced Family Attorney in Raymore
A dependency hearing for child custody is best handled with the advice of experienced Cass County law firm. Our years of experience in custody disputes and other family law matters in Missouri will provide you with the necessary information to meet your legal needs.
Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 for a consultation.