Probable Cause Hearings in DSS Cases

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The Department of Social Services exists to, in part, protect children from being abused or neglected. Most DSS cases start with a report of abuse or neglect that must be investigated. DSS generally has 45 days to complete its investigation once the report has been made.


However, in certain circumstances, DSS or law enforcement might believe that there are circumstances that make it unsafe for a child to remain where they are during a pending DSS investigation. In situations like this law enforcement has the ability to place a child in emergency protective custody without the consent of the parents or guardians. Additionally, DSS can petition the Court to place the child in emergency custody. In either of these situations, a probable cause hearing must be held within seventy-two hours of the time the child was taken into emergency protective custody.


At the probable cause hearing it will be the Judge’s responsibility to determine whether there was probable cause for taking the child into emergency protective custody and whether probable cause continues to exist for the child to remain in emergency protective custody. During this hearing, the Judge will be relying on the following:

  • Testimony of DSS caseworkers
  • Testimony of law enforcement
  • Affidavits (not testimony) of the parent or guardian of the child.
  • Your attorney may also cross-examine the witnesses for DSS about the reason for removal.

The Judge will determine at that time whether the child may be returned to their home or will remain in DSS custody while the case continues. The Judge will also determine whether DSS made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of the child and whether there are relatives that are viable placements for the child while the case is pending.

Given the importance of a probable cause hearing, it is wise to hire an attorney to represent you. Due to the timeframe in which a probable cause hearing occurs, it is also important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Our firm has years of experience representing clients in family court. Please contact Seth Johnson at 864-585-5100 or if we may assist you.

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