2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 48. Children's code.
48.31 Fact-finding hearing.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 48.31 (2017)

48.31 Fact-finding hearing.

(1) In this section, “fact-finding hearing" means a hearing to determine if the allegations in a petition under s. 48.13 or 48.133 or a petition to terminate parental rights are proved by clear and convincing evidence. In the case of a petition to terminate parental rights to an Indian child, “fact-finding hearing" means a hearing to determine if the allegations in the petition, other than the allegations under s. 48.42 (1) (e) relating to serious emotional or physical damage, are proved by clear and convincing evidence and if the allegations under s. 48.42 (1) (e) relating to serious emotional or physical damage are proved beyond a reasonable doubt as provided in s. 48.028 (4) (e) 1., unless partial summary judgment on the grounds for termination of parental rights is granted.

(2) The hearing shall be to the court unless the child, the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian, the unborn child's guardian ad litem, or the expectant mother of the unborn child exercises the right to a jury trial by demanding a jury trial at any time before or during the plea hearing. If a jury trial is demanded in a proceeding under s. 48.13 or 48.133, the jury shall consist of 6 persons. If a jury trial is demanded in a proceeding under s. 48.42, the jury shall consist of 12 persons unless the parties agree to a lesser number. Chapters 756 and 805 shall govern the selection of jurors. If the hearing involves a child victim or witness, as defined in s. 950.02, the court may order that a deposition be taken by audiovisual means and allow the use of a recorded deposition under s. 967.04 (7) to (10) and, with the district attorney, shall comply with s. 971.105. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court or jury shall make a determination of the facts, except that in a case alleging a child or an unborn child to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.13 or 48.133, the court shall make the determination under s. 48.13 (intro.) or 48.133 relating to whether the child or unborn child is in need of protection or services that can be ordered by the court. If the court finds that the child or unborn child is not within the jurisdiction of the court or, in a case alleging a child or an unborn child to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.13 or 48.133, that the child or unborn child is not in need of protection or services that can be ordered by the court, or if the court or jury finds that the facts alleged in the petition have not been proved, the court shall dismiss the petition with prejudice.

(4) The court or jury shall make findings of fact and the court shall make conclusions of law relating to the allegations of a petition filed under s. 48.13, 48.133 or 48.42, except that the court shall make findings of fact relating to whether the child or unborn child is in need of protection or services which can be ordered by the court. In cases alleging a child to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.13 (11), the court may not find that the child is suffering emotional damage unless a licensed physician specializing in psychiatry or a licensed psychologist appointed by the court to examine the child has testified at the hearing that in his or her opinion the condition exists, and adequate opportunity for the cross-examination of the physician or psychologist has been afforded. The judge may use the written reports if the right to have testimony presented is voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived by the guardian ad litem or legal counsel for the child and the parent or guardian. In cases alleging a child to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.13 (11m) or an unborn child to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.133, the court may not find that the child or the expectant mother of the unborn child is in need of treatment and education for needs and problems related to the use or abuse of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs and its medical, personal, family or social effects unless an assessment for alcohol and other drug abuse that conforms to the criteria specified under s. 48.547 (4) has been conducted by an approved treatment facility.

(5) If the child is an Indian child, the court or jury shall also determine at the fact-finding hearing whether continued custody of the Indian child by the Indian child's parent or Indian custodian is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the Indian child under s. 48.028 (4) (d) 1. and whether active efforts under s. 48.028 (4) (d) 2. have been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian child's family and whether those efforts have proved unsuccessful, unless partial summary judgment on the allegations under s. 48.13 or 48.133 is granted, in which case the court shall make those determinations at the dispositional hearing.

(7)

(a) At the close of the fact-finding hearing, the court, subject to s. 48.299 (9), shall set a date for the dispositional hearing which allows a reasonable time for the parties to prepare but is no more than 10 days after the fact-finding hearing for a child in secure custody and no more than 30 days after the fact-finding hearing for a child or expectant mother who is not held in secure custody. Subject to s. 48.299 (9), if all parties consent, the court may immediately proceed with a dispositional hearing.

(b) If it appears to the court that disposition of the case may include placement of the child outside the child's home, the court shall order the child's parent to provide a statement of income, assets, debts, and living expenses to the court or the designated agency under s. 48.33 (1) at least 5 days before the scheduled date of the dispositional hearing or as otherwise ordered by the court. The clerk of court shall provide, without charge, to any parent ordered to provide a statement of income, assets, debts, and living expenses a document setting forth the percentage standard established by the department under s. 49.22 (9) and the manner of its application established by the department under s. 49.345 (14) (g) and listing the factors that a court may consider under s. 49.345 (14) (c).

(c) If the court orders the child's parent to provide a statement of income, assets, debts and living expenses to the court or if the court orders the child's parent to provide that statement to the designated agency under s. 48.33 (1) and that designated agency is not the county department or, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, the department, the court shall also order the child's parent to provide that statement to the county department or, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, the department at least 5 days before the scheduled date of the dispositional hearing or as otherwise ordered by the court. The county department or, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, the department shall provide, without charge, to the parent a form on which to provide that statement, and the parent shall provide that statement on that form. The county department or, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, the department shall use the information provided in the statement to determine whether the department may claim federal foster care and adoption assistance reimbursement under 42 USC 670 to 679a for the cost of providing care for the child.

History: 1977 c. 354, 447; 1979 c. 32 s. 92 (13); 1979 c. 300, 331, 355, 357, 359; 1983 a. 197; 1985 a. 262 s. 8; 1987 a. 339; 1993 a. 481; 1995 a. 77, 275, 404, 448; 1997 a. 3, 35, 292; 1999 a. 103; 2001 a. 105; 2005 a. 42; 2007 a. 20; 2009 a. 94; 2013 a. 170; 2015 a. 172.

As a matter of judicial administration, the supreme court mandates procedures for withdrawal of a juvenile's jury demand. In Interest of N.E. 122 Wis. 2d 198, 361 N.W.2d 693 (1985).

A fact-finding hearing under sub. (1) was not closed until the court ruled on a motion to set aside the verdict. In Interest of C.M.L. 157 Wis. 2d 152, 458 N.W.2d 573 (Ct. App. 1990).

A child's need for protection or services should be determined as of the date the petition is filed. Children can be adjudicated in need of protection or services when divorced parents have joint custody, one parent committed acts proscribed by s. 48.13 (10), and at the time of the hearing the other can provide the necessary care for the children. State v. Gregory L.S. 2002 WI App 101, 253 Wis. 2d 563, 643 N.W.2d 890, 01-2325.

Contrary to the Child's Best Interest: Children's Court Proceedings. Sowinski and Wiensch. Wis. Law. Apr. 2013.

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