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Defending Against a Dependency Petition Filed by the Department of Child Safety (DCS)

Step 1 Preliminary Protective Hearing or Initial Dependency Hearing

DCS will file a dependency petition if they have probable cause to establish that a child has suffered abuse. The first hearing will be a preliminary protective or initial dependency hearing. 

Preliminary Protective Hearing

The purpose of this hearing is to review the taking into temporary custody of a child. It will take place not fewer than five days nor more than seven days after the child is taken into custody. The court can continue it for five additional days.

The court will determine the placement of the child and services for parents.

Preliminary Protective & Initial Dependency Hearings

  1. Parents have the following rights:
  2. The right to counsel,
  3. The right to trial by the court on the allegations in the petition.
  4. The right to cross-examine all witnesses that are called to testify against the parent or guardian.
  5. The right to use the process of the court to compel the attendance of witnesses.

Important Note: Indigent parents are appointed counsel paid for by the county.

At the Initial Dependency hearing the parents will have the ability to admit or deny the allegations in the dependency petition or request a trial.

The child will be appointed a guardian ad litem or, if the child is over 12 years old,  also an attorney.  Both will be paid for by the county.

Step 2 Dependency Adjudication Hearing aka. Trial; Settlement Conference or Mediation

If, at the dependency adjudication hearing (trial), the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the allegations contained in the dependency petition are true, the court shall make the following findings as to each parent:

  1. That the court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and the person before the court.
  2. The factual basis for the dependency that proves the child was abused or neglected.
  3. That the child is dependent and is now a ward of the court in the legal custody of DCS.
  4. Order the services the parent is required to participate in to be reunited with their child.


If a parent fails to appear at the pretrial conference, settlement conference or dependency adjudication hearing, the court may find that the parent has waived the parent’s legal rights and is deemed to have admitted the allegations. In other words, it is critically important to appear at all hearings.

Step 3 Disposition Hearing

At the disposition hearing the court will decide: the placement for the child, the case plan and services. This is often held at the same time as other hearings. 

The court may enter orders awarding a dependent child as follows:

  1. To a relative, friend, or foster parent with good moral character.
  2. To a suitable institution.
  3. To an appropriate public or private agency licensed to care for children.  

Step 4 Permanency Hearing

The court will hold a permanency hearing to determine the future permanent legal status of the child. The timing of this hearing is determined by the age of the child. For younger children it may be within six months and for older children in 12-15 months. At the permanency hearing, the court will approve a permanent plan for the child. The court may continue with a family reunification plan or change the plan to guardianship or severance and adoption.  

At Kile & Kupiszewski we have over 20 years of experience in the area of juvenile dependency law representing parents, grandparents, relatives and foster parents. Having a child in foster care is emotionally difficult for everyone involved. Our juvenile law team knows the child welfare system and can guide you through the process. Call today at 480-348-1590 to discuss your matter and explore your legal options. 

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