72 Hour Custody Hearings
An emergency order of removal will be followed by a second hearing, known as a “seventy-two-hour hearing.” The purpose of the seventy-two-hour hearing is to determine whether the circumstances warrant DCF’s retention of custody until a hearing on the merits of the petition is held. If not, the judge will either return the child to the parent’s custody or place the child in the custody of a third party pending a hearing on the merits.
If DCF is awarded custody of the child, it will have the authority to make all decisions concerning the child, including where and with whom the child will live, the frequency of visits with the parents, and the child’s education and medical care. Although the removal of the child is considered temporary at this time, a hearing on the merits sometimes may not occur for a year or more.
While a child is in DCF custody, the department has the authority to determine the frequency of visits with the parents. Parents are often only able visit with their child or children occasionally, and it is usually in uncomfortable or unnatural circumstances. Unfortunately, over time, this can (and often does) result in the deterioration of the parent-child relationship.
Given the gravity of the interests at state, zealous advocacy of the rights of both the child and parents at the seventy-two-hour is absolutely essential.