At the preliminary hearing before the court, the probation officer will make one of 3 recommendations:
- That the court should dismiss the case for lack of “probable cause”
- That the court should refer the child and parent with their agreement to a probation officer for informal assistance
- That the court should accept the Application for CRA and schedule the fact-finding hearing
The court may decide that the best way to help your child is to order informal assistance with a probation officer. You and your child must agree to informal assistance. The probation officer may refer your child to a public or private organization or a person for psychiatric, psychological, educational, occupational, medical, dental or social services, and may hold meetings with you and your child to help solve problems that led to you or the school district filing the application.
The first referral for informal assistance is for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, the case may be brought back to court for an informal assistance review hearing. Informal assistance may be extended for an additional 90 days if you and your child agree. The court may also dismiss the case or schedule it for a fact-finding hearing. At the end of the second referral, the court will either dismiss the case or schedule the fact-finding hearing. If the case is dismissed, the judge will issue an expungement order.
You're not required to give the probation officer any papers. Although not required, it's recommended that you and your child make an effort to participate in services. If you and your child don't make a good faith effort to participate in services offered by the probation officer, the probation office will notify the Clerk Magistrate, who will schedule the fact-finding hearing.
If the court decides to schedule a fact-finding hearing, the person who filed the CRA application will be responsible for presenting enough evidence for the judge to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the child requires assistance. At the end of the fact-finding hearing, the judge will either:
- Dismiss the case if the evidence presented doesn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your child requires assistance.
- Find that your child requires assistance and schedule a conference and a disposition hearing. If possible, the conference and disposition hearing will be scheduled on the same day.
Conference and disposition hearing
The conference provides an opportunity for you and your child, the probation officer, a representative from your child’s school, clinicians, Department of Children and Families (DCF), (if involved with your family), and other identified people to provide the court with information regarding the best way to help your child. Everyone named above will receive notice of the date and time of the conference.
The probation officer will prepare a written report for the conference. Anyone else who's invited may also present a written report.
At the disposition hearing, the judge will determine what orders should be entered to help your child. The judge’s orders may include:
- Allowing the child to remain with you, subject to any conditions and limitations the court may order, which may include arranging for medical, psychological, psychiatric, educational, occupational, and social services, and for supervision by a court clinic or by any public or private organization providing counseling or guidance services
- Placing your child in the care of a relative or DCF, subject to any conditions and limitations the court may order
The first disposition order will last for 120 days. At the end of the disposition review hearing, the judge will review your child’s progress and either dismiss the case or extend the order for 90 days if the judge finds that the purposes of the order haven’t been accomplished and extending the order would likely accomplish those purposes. The judge may extend the order up to 3 times. After that point, the case must be dismissed. The total period of the disposition order, including all extensions, is 390 days.
A law enforcement officer/police officer may take a child into custodial protection if the officer has reason to believe that the child is a runaway and is unlikely to respond to a summons to appear in court. The officer will first try to bring the child home, to a shelter, or to DCF before the child is brought to court.
You'll be contacted if your child is brought to court. It's important that you make every effort to come to court as soon as possible. The court doesn't have the authority to keep your child from leaving court, other than to tell your child to wait for you or for their case to go before a judge. If your child doesn't have a CRA case, they'll be released to you.
Temporary custody hearing
If your child has a case or if you decide to file a case after the child is brought to court, you may be required to go before a judge for a temporary custody hearing. If you're indigent, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you at the hearing. The judge will decide whether to release the child to you or have the child held at DCF for 15 days. The order may be renewed twice for 15 days each. The child may not be held at DCF during this part of the case for more than 45 days.