Child Abuse or Neglect Jurisdiction Trial
In Michigan, child protective proceedings are split into two parts: jurisdiction and disposition. If a petition is authorized by the court, the next major step will be fighting over jurisdiction. The Children’s Protective Services worker and/or prosecutor will be trying to obtain court jurisdiction over your children. In most cases, you will be fighting against this.
To obtain jurisdiction, the petitioner (CPS or the Prosecutor) must convince either a judge or jury that one or more of the allegations in the petition are true by a preponderance of the evidence. If the judge or jury does not find the allegations in the petition to be true, the petition will be dismissed.
In order to have your case heard by a jury, you must make a jury demand within the time limits provided for by the court rules. If you currently have a case pending and haven’t demanded a jury trial, you should consult with a qualified Child Protective Services defense attorney immediately. It is almost always our recommendation that you demand a jury trial. If you demand a jury trial, your case will be heard by six ordinary citizens instead of a judge. A decision is reached when 5 of the 6 jurors reach an agreement. While most judges are fair and considerate, we believe that we can usually tell your story in a more effective manner to a jury.
If your child was not removed from the home, a jurisdiction trial must commence within six months of the petition being filed. MCR 3.923(G). If the child has been removed from the home, the trial must commence within 63 days.
In Michigan, a parent has a right to be present at a jurisdiction trial, but the court may proceed without you if you fail to appear after having been given notice of the date and time. Your child may also attend the trial. The court is allowed to excuse the child from attendance, but cannot prohibit him or her from attending, if he or she wishes to be there. MCL 712A.12, MCR 3.972(B)(1).
The Michigan Rules of Evidence generally apply at jurisdiction trials. This means that things like “hearsay” are generally not admissible. However, certain privileges such as a the physician-patient privilege do not apply at a jurisdiction trial. If your case involves allegations of physical or psychological abuse, it is important that you have an attorney who understands the evidentiary rules that apply at a jurisdiction trial.