Child Welfare Agency May Not Privately and Informally Furnish Oral Case Summaries Directly to the Court for Use in Temporary Child Custody or Visitation Rulings in Juvenile Dependency Cases

Juvenile dependency cases are cases generally brought by the state on behalf of children believed by the state’s child welfare agency (Agency) to be abandoned, abused or neglected.

In preparation for such cases in Massachusetts, courthouse personnel routinely call the Agency to obtain directly, privately and informally a brief verbal account of the contents of the case file.

Leaving behind no record of what the Agency reports to the court.

And, effectively denying parents and other participants in the case the opportunity to challenge or otherwise address the Agency’s account before the Court relies on it in ruling on temporary custody and visitation for the children involved.

In an important recent ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has struck down this procedure as an unconstitutional violation of parents’ rights to due process (fairness).

Massachusetts family courts may no longer follow their well-established procedure.

The Supreme Court has rule that the family courts may, however, develop a new procedure and submit it to the state’s highest court for review and approval prior to implementation.

Read more in this Springfield [MA] Republican news article: Court ruling regarding child-custody cases in Massachusetts hailed as victory for parents.