DCF Substantiation Hearing in Avon
Being contacted by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, or DCF, can be an intimidating and stressful experience—something that no parent wants to go through. If you have received notice from the DCF that you are being investigated based on allegations of child abuse or neglect, you need to take action immediately. Based on the allegations made against you, the DCF will conduct an investigation to determine if there is any validity to the allegations. If the allegations are substantiated based on evidentiary findings, your relationship with your child could be on the line. To help you understand and prepare for a DCF substantiation hearing in Avon, call our DCF attorney at The Christie Law Firm today. We work with clients in and around the Avon area.
What Is a DCF Substantiation Hearing?
When the DCF receives a report of abuse or neglect, it will launch an investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to gather evidence that either substantiates or undermines the allegations of abuse or neglect. If, through the investigation, the DCF finds that there is indeed evidence of abuse or neglect, then it will issue a notice to the defendant that the complaint has been substantiated. At this point, the defendant (the child’s parent or guardian) has the right to appeal the finding. The process of appealing the DCF’s finding of substantiation is what’s known as a substantiation hearing.
An appeal—or request for substantiation hearing—must be made within 30 days of receiving notice of the DCF’s original finding. During the hearing, both parties can present written, oral, and other documentary evidence. The burden of proof in establishing abuse or neglect lies on the DCF. Typically, hearings last for a few hours. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer has 30 days to issue a memorandum of decision. The decision must be provided to all parties and must include the details of the decision and whether the allegations of abuse/neglect are indeed substantiated, as well as how the hearing officer arrived at that decision.
What Are My Rights During a Substantiation Hearing?
If you receive notice that the DCF has substantiated findings of abuse against you, the first right of which you should be aware is your right to appeal by requesting a substantiation hearing. If you do not do this within 30 days of receiving the notice of substantiation, your right to appeal will be forfeited. For this reason, it is essential that you hire an attorney as soon as possible.
During the hearing, you have other rights, too. These include:
- The right to call witnesses who can testify on your behalf;
- The right to cross-examine witnesses called by DCF;
- The right to introduce additional evidence if such evidence was not available at the time the original substantiation finding was made;
- The right to legal representation;
- The right to examine the DCF’s evidence against you before the evidence is submitted to the hearing officer; and
- The right to have your child protected from testifying against you (the child in question cannot testify in substantiation hearings).
You also have the right to appeal the hearing officer’s decision if it is unfavorable. If you receive notice that the hearing officer has substantiated the allegations against you following the substantiation hearing, The appeal will be an administrative appeal in the Superior Court.
Possible Results of a DCF Substantiation Hearing
At the conclusion of a DCF substantiation hearing, the hearing officer will issue a finding of substantiation (that the abuse/neglect did in fact occur) or will issue a finding of no substantiation—this finding means that the DCF has not presented enough evidence to prove that the child experienced or is experiencing abuse or neglect.
If a finding of substantiation is made, you risk other consequences. In some cases, the DCF may move to have the child removed from your home. It can do this with a 96-hour administrative hold if it has reason to believe that immediate removal of the child from the home is necessary for the child’s safety, by requesting an ex parte order of temporary custody, or by filing a petition for an order of temporary custody. In severe cases, this can escalate to the parent(s) eventually having their parental rights revoked.
Another consequence of a DCF hearing is having your name placed on the Connecticut DCF central registry. The Child Abuse and Neglect Registry, or DCF central registry, is a list that includes the names of parents and guardians who’ve had allegations of abuse or neglect substantiated. If your name is on this list, it could bar you from certain employment opportunities, such as working with children in schools or daycare facilities.
How an Avon DCF Substantiation Hearing Attorney Can Help
Learning that the DCF has substantiated its findings of abuse or neglect against you is a terrifying experience. If you have received such a notice from the DCF, you need to hire an Avon attorney immediately who can work with you to file a request for a substantiation hearing and prepare for that hearing. At The Christie Law Firm, our Avon DCF substantiation hearing attorney can help you by ensuring that you do not breach the statute of limitations in filing your request for hearing (30 days from the date of notice); reviewing the DCF’s evidence against you; helping you to gather new evidence to submit during the hearing, including written documents and witnesses’ testimonies; cross-examining the DCF’s witnesses during the hearing; representing your best interests throughout the entire process; and helping you to understand the hearing officer’s final decision and next steps.
Call Our Family Advocate Today
You may feel extremely nervous and hopeless about the future if you’re involved in a DCF case, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone and that you have legal options. At the office of The Christie Law Firm, our DCF substantiation hearing attorney, working with clients in Avon, has years of experience representing clients involved in DCF investigation and substantiation cases and understands what you’re going through. To learn more about the legal services our law firm provides and how we can help you after a finding of substantiation, please call our law firm directly at 860-461-7494, send us a message online, or visit our office at your convenience.