An official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
This page, Rules for the Care and Protection of Children: Rule 14. Status hearing, is part of
This page, Rules for the Care and Protection of Children: Rule 14. Status hearing, is offered by
Juvenile Court Rules

Rules for the Care and Protection of Children

Juvenile Court Rules Rules for the Care and Protection of Children: Rule 14. Status hearing

Effective Date: 11/05/2018
Updates: Amended July 27, 2018, effective November 5, 2018

Contact

Trial Court Law Libraries

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 

Table of Contents

Rule 14

There shall be a status hearing within ninety days after the commencement of a care and protection case, provided however, that it shall be scheduled to occur after the court investigator's report has been filed. All parties are required to be present with counsel at the status hearing, except that counsel for the child may appear without his/her client. Failure of one or more parties to appear shall not preclude the court from proceeding with the status hearing.

A. Summons to the court investigator

The court may issue, or one or more of the parties may request, a summons to the court investigator to attend the status hearing. When so summoned, the court investigator shall attend the status hearing to respond to any questions regarding the process of the investigation or the report filed in accordance with Rule 11 and G. L. c. 119, §§ 21A and 24. Failure of the court investigator to be present without good cause or the report to be available shall not preclude the court from proceeding with the status hearing.

B. Issues to be addressed

Unless previously addressed and resolved, at the status hearing the court shall address but is not limited to addressing: the process of the court investigation or the report; service of process in accordance with Rule 5; discovery motions; child identification; the Indian Child Welfare Act; any special evidentiary issues; the Department's plan to achieve permanence; any issues regarding services being offered or delivered to the family pending trial; the scheduling of a pretrial conference; and compliance with the standing order regarding time standards. Nothing in this rule shall preclude the court from hearing motions, including discovery motions, at other times in the interests of justice.

C. Court investigator's report

The court shall attach the court investigator's report to the petition at the status hearing, or at the next court date after the filing of the report. The report shall then become a part of the record in accordance with G. L. c. 119, § 24.

D. Orders

At the conclusion of the status hearing, the court shall issue any necessary and appropriate orders to resolve the matters before the court.

Note

The purpose of the status hearing is to address any matters that may impact the timely resolution of the case and permanency for the child.

This rule differs from the prior rule in that it provides a uniform procedure to secure the presence of the court investigator and addresses how the court investigator's report becomes part of the record and evidence in the case.

When summoned to attend the status hearing by the Clerk's Office, the court investigator is present to answer any questions from the parties, their attorneys or the court regarding the process of the investigation and to identify sources of information. It is not the purpose of the attendance of the court investigator at the status hearing to address the factual content of the investigator's report, or assess the credibility of the investigator or the reliability of the information in the report. When the court investigator is summoned to attend the status hearing, the court should make every effort to conduct the hearing as early as possible on the scheduled date in order to avoid and/or reduce the wait time for the court investigator.

This rule makes it clear that the court investigator's report automatically becomes part of the record in accordance with G. L. c. 119, § 24. The court investigator's report becomes part of the record and evidence not by its physical "attachment" to the petition but by operation of law. General Laws c. 119, § 24, requires that "the court shall appoint a person qualified under section 21A to investigate the conditions affecting the child and to make a report under oath to the court, which shall be attached to the petition and be a part of the record." (emphasis added). Accordingly, the Appeals Court has held that there is "no question that § 24 anticipates use of the report by the trial judge." In re Zita, 455 Mass. 272, 281 (2009) (citing Custody of Two Minors, 19 Mass. App. Ct. 552, 559 (1985)). See also Custody of Michel, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 260, 267(1990). ("Primary reliance concerning the family picture will be on the § 24 report. Such is the import of the statutory language ...")

Because the investigator's report is part of the record of the case, there can be no objection in general to the receipt or use of the investigator's report in arriving at decisions in care and protection cases. Custody of Michel, 28 Mass. App. Ct. at 265. The report may contain hearsay statements from a wide variety of sources and the cases do not distinguish between levels of hearsay. Id. at 266. Parties have a fair opportunity to rebut allegations in the report by cross examining the court investigator and his/her sources or by other means at trial, so it is vital that all sources of statements and information in the report be clearly identified. Specific objections may be made by motions in limine. Custody of Tracy, 31 Mass. App. Ct., 481 (1991) and Custody of Michel. See also Mass. G. Evid. § 1115(c)(1) and (e)(6) regarding court investigator reports in general.

Downloads for Rules for the Care and Protection of Children: Rule 14. Status hearing

Contact

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Feedback