Juvenile Court Rules
Rules for the Care and Protection of Children

Juvenile Court Rules  Rules for the Care and Protection of Children: Rule 15. Pretrial conference in care and protection cases

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

Table of Contents

Rule 15

A pretrial conference shall be scheduled to occur no later than thirty days before the trial on the merits, except for good cause shown provided however, that it shall be scheduled to occur after the date upon which the court investigator's report is due. All parties are required to be present with counsel at the pretrial conference, 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 pretrial conference.

A. Witness and exhibits lists

The parties shall file written witness and exhibit lists with the court at the pretrial conference. As a matter of discretion in a particular case, the trial judge may order the parties to submit a written joint or individual pretrial memorandum that covers any or all of the issues set forth below in subsection B of this rule. Parties shall be bound by the witness and exhibit lists filed separately or set forth in a pretrial memorandum, except by court order for good cause shown.

B. Issues to be addressed

At the pretrial conference, the court shall address the matters set forth below:

1. Whether parents have been served by the petitioner and the date(s) of service
2. Whether discovery has been completed; and if discovery has not been completed, a list of discovery items not yet provided and the compliance date
3. Relief sought, including whether or not there will be a request for a decree dispensing with the need for parental consent to the adoption, custody, guardianship or other disposition of the child named in the petition
4. Identification of the specific contested issues to be litigated at trial
5. A stipulation of all uncontested facts and issues
6. A list of proposed exhibits to be introduced at trial
7. A list of proposed witnesses which shall include the names of any expert witnesses, a delineation of the issues to which the expert is expected to testify, and a copy of his or her curriculum vitae
8. Issues regarding the admissibility of evidence at trial
9. Scheduling a date for the submission of motions in limine, if any, and scheduling a hearing thereon, if necessary
10. Any unaddressed motions
11. Whether a writ of habeas corpus will be required to ensure attendance of a party or witness, or whether a witness needs to participate telephonically or by other means
12. Whether an interpreter is required 
13. Whether a child witness needs an accommodation to testify
14. Whether, if the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies, the tribe has been notified and has responded and whether other legal requirements under ICWA have been satisfied
15. An estimate of trial time
16. Any other matters that may aid in the disposition of the action

The court shall address, where applicable:

17. Whether the possibility of settlement has been discussed
18. Whether counsel for the parties have discussed mediation with their client(s) pursuant to Rule 5 of Rule 1:18 of the Supreme Judicial Court
19. The Department's plan to provide timely notice of the trial to the foster parent, pre-adoptive parent or relative providing care.

C. Scheduling the hearing on the merits

At the pretrial conference, unless previously scheduled, the court shall schedule a hearing on the merits to be heard within twelve months of the filing of the petition unless a later date is necessary in the interests of justice.


This rule differs from the prior 2007 rule in that it retains the pretrial conference and written witness and exhibit lists but removes the requirement of a written pretrial conference memorandum unless ordered by the trial judge. Pretrial memoranda that contain mere boilerplate paragraphs relative to the issues to be addressed or a list of all possible witnesses are of no value to the court.

In some divisions, proposed exhibits are marked for identification at various stages of the proceedings. In those divisions, when listing exhibits marked for evidence under Rule 15 B. 6, counsel should use the same numbers used by the court to mark the exhibits for identification.

If a date has not been set for the submission of, or to hear, motions in limine, the trial judge should schedule said date(s) at the pretrial conference.

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