I mentioned this hearing here, because I’d like you to be thinking about this tool all during the juvenile court process. Theoretically, it cannot be used until after the dispositional hearing; therefore, I mention it now.

This is a petition that ANY PERSON can file asking the judge to change a prior court order, and alleging that it would be in the best interests of the children. This petition seems like a somewhat simple form to complete, but its subtleties are complex in most situations.

The typical person using this tool, is a parent who wants the children returned home sooner than the next court hearing. But it’s also used by relatives to have children moved from foster care to the relative home. I’ve seen it used by minors’ attorneys and social workers to remove children from a certain placement. I’ve seen it used by non-relatives to place children in their homes. I’ve seen it used by parents to stop the termination of their parental rights, and to stop an eventual adoption. The uses are endless, and only limited by the imagination.

If a 388 petition is filed, the court may do one of two things: grant the petition, and set it for a hearing; or deny the petition.

If the petition is denied, you have the right to appeal this decision, immediately.

If the petition is granted, the court can have a hearing on the petition in a variety of ways, all within the discretion of the judge.

The court could set a full evidentiary hearing.

The court could set a hearing where the judge will just listen to oral argument by the attorneys, or any combination thereof.

I once was involved in a 388 petition hearing, where the judge required everyone to submit testimony by written declaration; and then only allowed limited oral argument by the attorneys. This is interesting, because it shows the varieties of ways a 388 hearing can be conducted.

Always consult with an attorney before filing a 388 petition; and always have an attorney represent you in that proceeding. Too many things can happen where legal expertise may be needed.

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