72 Hour Hearings: The First Court Hearing After Removal of a Child by CPS

            In Washington State, when a child is removed from the home by CPS, by law there must be a court hearing within 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) known as a 72 Hour Shelter Care Hearing. CPS is required by law to make reasonable efforts to inform the parents that their child was removed, the reasons why, the date/time/location of the hearing, and their rights at this hearing. A parent’s rights at this hearing include (1) the right to have an attorney represent them, the right to speak on their own behalf, the right to introduce evidence, the right to examine witnesses, and the right to receive a decision based solely on the evidence presented to the judge. They also can contest all things that CPS is requesting, including the need for ongoing out-of-home care pending the dependency trial (this out-of-home care, if ordered by the court at this hearing, is known as “shelter care”). If a parent does not show up, and CPS through testimony proves to the court that reasonable efforts were made to provide them notice, the parent will be “defaulted,” meaning the court will find “shelter care” as to that parent without them being able to exercise their hearing rights.

 

            The rulings at this hearing are only temporary, with the court’s primary goal a determination on whether the child or children can safely return home pending the resolution of the dependency trial. This hearing does not determine whether the specific allegations in the dependency petition are true or false. That happens at trial. Unfortunately for parents, the burdens of proof and standards for evidence are much lower at a 72 Hour Hearing than a civil or criminal trial (and in turn, the civil dependency trial has much lower burdens of proof than a criminal trial). For the court to find “shelter care,” it generally must only find that there is reasonable cause to believe the child or children can’t safely go home to a parent that day. “Reasonable cause” gives the court broad discretion in making this decision. Additionally, the usual rules of evidence do not apply at this stage – the court only reviews evidence under a “reasonable cause” standard, which, while not clearly defined, allows a lot more evidence to come in that otherwise a parent may be able to object to at a full trial. These relaxed standards, which are arguably quite “anti-parent” at this stage, are because a child’s safety trumps a parent’s fundamental parental rights when the two conflict in the eyes of the court. This unfortunately means that the strong majority of these hearings result in the court finding “shelter care” and ordering that the child or children be in relative, suitable adult, or foster care placement pending the dependency trial. It also means that a parent generally must have a strong case and aggressive representation at this stage to have their child returned home to them that day.

 

       If you have questions about a dependency case, email us at eliseb@elisebuiefamilylaw.com or call at 206-926-9848 to schedule a consultation. Please note, however, that if you are currently represented by another attorney, we may not be able to speak with you about your case.

STAY UP TO DATE

Subscribe to our newsletters

 
Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.

FURTHER READING

Latest Blog Posts

Divorce can be a time of confusion and complexity. In addition to any emotional or other stress, your divorce can impact both your and your ex’s will. Therefore, it is important to understand what that impact may be and what…

While software developers are among the professions with the lowest divorce rates, coming in at 20.3%, workers in the technology sector who divorce face specific challenges during the divorce process. From how to locate and divide assets to determining parenting…

For parents, divorce often raises many questions surrounding extracurricular activities. These questions usually include whether the children will get to participate in the extracurricular activities (sports, performing arts classes, music lessons, art classes, etc.) they did before the divorce, expanded…

Divorce is a time of transition, which can bring about changes in your professional life as much as it can in your personal life. Perhaps you are one of the ones, like many, who have decided that a fresh start…

Becoming a single parent, especially after being married and having a partner to share in the physical and emotional labor, can be a challenging transition. The role of single parent, even for those in a healthy co-parenting relationship with their…

If you are in love and looking to plan a life with your partner, congratulations. This is an exciting time for you both, and the goal is that the relationship will stand the test of time. However, a recent study…

Divorce is not only about protecting assets and deciding who will keep the marital home afterward. Divorce is about re-envisioning your life following the end of a marriage and about discovering who you are today. This may include learning about…

The expression “in sickness and in health” is common in wedding ceremonies of all faiths. So when most people recite these words, it is probably safe to assume that they envision themselves married at a time when the unthinkable may…

Instead of marrying, increasingly, more couples are choosing to cohabitate outside of marriage. Many couples decide this for a variety of reasons, including testing the waters about whether they are suitable to live together as a couple or don’t believe…

Divorce can be a relatively straightforward process if you and your spouse are on good terms and can agree on certain issues in your case. In such a situation, you can file for an uncontested divorce which is often a…