53 Kids and the Law continue to have temporary custody. The court sends each parent or guardian, including alleged fathers, a notice and summons to come to court. If DCF is not the Petitioner, the court notifies DCF of the filing. What rights do the parents or guardians have? Within 72 hours of the removal of the child by the court, the parents or guard- ians have a right to come to the court to ask the court to return the child to them. Each parent or guardian has the right to be represented by an indepen- dent attorney. If the court finds that a parent or guardian cannot afford an at- torney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent them in the case. The child is represented by their own court-appointed attorney. Because of scheduling problems, many courts do not hold these hearings within the required 72-hour period. Many judges interpret this part of the law to mean the hearing only has to begin within that 72-hour time period. These hearings can be continued over an extended time period. What happens at a “72-hour hearing”? Some courts refer to this hearing as the arraignment. The legal language makes it sound as if the parents or guardians have to prove why the child should not be committed to DCF custody. However, it is really the Petitioner, usually DCF, who must prove the need for the child’s removal from the home by a fair preponderance of the evidence. The Petitioner must show that the child is “suffering from serious abuse or neglect or is in immediate danger of serious abuse or neglect” and the removal continues to be “necessary to pro- tect the child from serious abuse or neglect.” (Massachusetts General Laws chapter 119, Section 24). DCF (or the Petitioner) presents witnesses such as the DCF worker who in- vestigated the 51A allegation or the on-going social worker and, sometimes, other evidence, such as school or medical records. The Petitioner’s attorney questions the witnesses, and then the attorney for the parents or guardians and the attorney for the child have the right to cross-examine (question) the Petitioner’s witnesses. After the Petitioner has put on its case, the attorneys for the parents or guardians and child have the right to present their own witness- es and other evidence. Care and Protection Cases 6