What happens at the “Fact-Finding” Hearing in a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) case?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created February, 2021

At the Preliminary Hearing or at the end of Informal Assistance, the judge can accept the Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) Application that you or the school district filed. If the judge accepts the application, they schedule the case for a Fact-Finding Hearing.

At the hearing, whoever filed the CRA application must prove to the new judge that your child is a "Child Requiring Assistance."

The judge at the Fact Finding Hearing is not supposed to be the same judge you had before. Sometimes they are.

At the “Fact-Finding Hearing,” the judge decides if your child and family need help from the court.

You, your child, and your child’s lawyer must be present.

You, your child, your child's lawyer and the Probation Officer all have the right to speak.

A different judge handles the Fact-Finding Hearing

The judge who conducted the hearing about accepting the application is not allowed to handle any hearing that comes later. So a new judge handles the Fact-Finding Hearing. This requirement is frequently waived in many places.

Can the judge dismiss the CRA application before the Fact-Finding Hearing?

Before a Fact-Finding Hearing,

  • You
  • Your child's lawyer, or
  • The person who filed the CRA application

can file a Motion to Dismiss to ask the judge to dismiss the case.

The judge can dismiss the case if it is in your child’s best interests or if everyone agrees that the case should be dismissed.

At any time, if a probation officer believes dismissing the CRA is in your child's best interest, the probation officer can recommend that the judge dismiss the case.

What does the CRA applicant have to prove at the Fact Finding Hearing?

The applicant must prove to the judge that your child needs the court's help. The applicant is the person who filed the application. The applicant can be you, the other parent, the school, or your child's legal guardian.

The applicant must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your child needs the court's help. This means the judge listens to everyone during the hearing and then decides for certain if your child meets the law’s definition of a “child requiring assistance” and needs the court’s help.

What does your child’s lawyer do at the Fact-Finding Hearing?

Your child’s lawyer's job is to argue for your child’s goals in the hearing. The lawyer will try to convince the judge to make the decision your child wants.

Your child’s lawyer may argue against you to the judge because your child disagrees with you.

The lawyer does not argue what is “best” for your child but what your child wants.

At the end of the fact-finding hearing

After listening to everyone, the judge decides if your child is a “Child Requiring Assistance” (CRA).

If the judge decides your child is a “Child Requiring Assistance” the next step is scheduling a Conference and Disposition Hearing.

Whenever possible, the court schedules the Conference and Disposition Hearing on the same date.

Read What Happens at the Conference and Disposition Hearing in a CRA case?

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