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What happens at the initial 72-hour Shelter Care hearing?


These are legally significant hearings at which parents have a right to counsel, and we recommend you exercise that right. If you have not retained an attorney by this time, one will be appointed to represent you and will be present with you at this hearing.


The focus of this hearing is the immediate safety of the child/ren.

This issues the court will address at this hearing are the following:

- whether the court believes that the child/ren can be safely returned to one or both parents; if not,

- the structure of visitation between the parents and the child/ren; and

- what services (such as parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, and/or mental health evaluations or treatment) are necessary to address the issues that the court believes requires the state’s involvement.

What is a dependency preliminary hearing? 


A Dependency Preliminary Hearing occurs about 21-30 days from the shelter care hearing, the court holds a preliminary hearing. This is a date setting hearing and the court does not hear contested matters. The court sets new preliminary hearing dates if necessary, and sets or confirms a fact finding date.

What is a dependency fact finding?


A dependency fact finding is a trial. This is not a trial in front of a jury, but will be decided by a judge. At this trial, the state must prove the allegations presented in the dependency petition. This trial must be held within 75 days of the filing of the dependency petition, unless the court finds that there are exceptional reasons for not doing so. At this trial, all parties will have an opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses, and cross-examine the witnesses called by the other parties.


Alternatively, an agreed order of dependency can be entered instead of having a trial. This can be done as a result of negotiations that to allow the parties to achieve a result that may be better than what might occur at a trial.

What is a dispositional order?


Within fourteen days of the dependency’s establishment, the court enters a dispositional order, unless there is good cause to have the hearing at a later date. In a dispositional order, the court decides whether the child/ren will be returned home or remain in the state’s custody. If the child/ren remain in the state’s custody, the court determines whether the child/ren will be placed with a relative, a person suitable to care for the child/ren that isn’t a licensed foster parent, or with foster parent(s). The court will also determine which services the parents are to complete in order to attempt to correct the issues that led to the child/ren’s removal. The court will also enter a visitation schedule. If an agreed dependency order entered, the dispositional order is generally included as part of the order. If the case goes to trial and the court decides the state proved the dependency petition, then the dispositional hearing is generally scheduled by the judge who heard the evidence at trial.

What is an initial progress review hearing?


The purpose of this hearing is to review the parents’ engagement in services and progress toward reunification of the parent/s and the child/ren.


In Snohomish County, IPR hearings are held regarding children who have been found dependent. The initial review hearing is set six months from the beginning date of the placement episode or no more than ninety days from the entry of the disposition order, whichever comes first.

What is a permanency planning review hearing? 


A PPR must be held within twelve months of the child/ren’s removal from a parent. The court, at these hearings, must order a permanent plan for the child/ren such as return home, adoption, guardianship, or third party custody. The court also reviews services for the parent, placement, and visitation.

What is a termination fact finding?


If a child is not able to be safely returned home in a reasonable time period, DSHS will file a termination of parental rights petition unless there is good cause not to do so. A termination trial is held in front of a judge, without a jury. At this trial, the state must provide the elements of the termination statute and show that it is in the child’s best interest for parental rights to be terminated. Parents have a right to present evidence at this trial and to be represented at no expense to themselves. Parents may choose to relinquish their parental rights instead of going to trial. Often, if a parent relinquishes their parental rights, they enter into an Open Adoption Agreement with the prospective adoptive parents (which is a separate legal document from the relinquishment documents).

What is a UFC hearing?


UFC or (Unified Family Court) coordinates a family’s dependency court case with a related family law case. In coordinating these cases, the court hopes to reduce the number of different courtrooms a family must attend, expedite case resolutions and assure more consistent rulings and recommendations. In addition, UFC cases are provided access to a Family Law Facilitator. The Family Law Facilitator provides assistance with the needed forms and information on the family court procedures.

Do I need an attorney to represent me at the initial 72 hour hearing?



Yes, absolutely. Whether you are at a shelter care hearing, involved in a CPS investigation, or facing an administrative finding, your family, your future job opportunities and your reputation are on the line. Defending the most important things in your life requires passionate and experienced representation from attorneys who can help you navigate through the court system and protect your rights as a parent. Our job as your attorney is to advocate for your interests in the courtroom. Our attorneys have the right perspective; we know the people involved, the procedures, the service providers, the policies, and most importantly, we know the law. Our practice is grounded in the belief that children should remain with, or be reunited with, their existing family or caretaker whenever safely possible. We believe every child is entitled to a safe and loving home, and that every parent must be provided with a fair chance to overcome the difficulties before them. In the unfortunate times when a child is removed from a parent, it is the State’s responsibility to make every attempt to place the child with another family member or close friend. If the State fails to do so, our office makes sure it is held accountable. Juvenile dependency law is an extremely complex and emotionally charged area of law. Our office has a successful history of reuniting families and preventing the removal of children by the State.

How soon can I obtain an attorney for my emergency hearing?



Our office is available to clients who require emergency representation for a shelter care hearing within 72 hours. The law requires that an emergency hearing be held within 72 hours (often referred to as a Shelter Care hearing) after a child has been removed from a parent’s or caretakers’ care by CPS and/or law enforcement. Often, parents are left in the dark about where their child is, what the allegations against them are, and what rights they have moving forward. We are available on weekends, holidays, and evenings for preparation and planning your representation at a shelter care hearing. As a parent, you have the right to present evidence, call witnesses, and examine the State’s evidence at the emergency hearing. Without adequate counsel, your family risks further trauma and possible separation.

The social worker on my case is holding an FTDM meeting. What is this and should I have an attorney present?



An FTDM meetings stands for: Family Team Decision-Making meeting. These meetings are generally held at the DSHS offices when a placement decision needs to be made. These meetings last anywhere between 1-2 hours, and it is highly recommended that you have an attorney present with you, since everything you say and do as a parent during these meetings could potentially be used against you at a later date. It is important to know your rights going into a meeting concerning the placement of your child, as well as what will be expected of you. Our attorneys have years of experience advocating for parents during these meetings and ensuring that they are treated fairly and with respect.

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