Rule 3.972 Trial

(A) Time. If the child is not in placement, the trial must be held within 6 months after the filing of the petition unless adjourned for good cause under MCR 3.923(G). If the child is in placement, the trial must commence as soon as possible, but not later than 63 days after the child is removed from the home unless the trial is postponed:

(1) on stipulation of the parties for good cause;

(2) because process cannot be completed; or

(3) because the court finds that the testimony of a presently unavailable witness is needed.

When trial is postponed pursuant to subrule (2) or (3), the court shall release the child to the parent, guardian, or legal custodian unless the court finds that releasing the child to the custody of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian will likely result in physical harm or serious emotional damage to the child.

If the child has been removed from the home, a review hearing must be held within 182 days of the date of the child’s removal from the home, even if the trial has not been completed before the expiration of that 182-day period.

(B) Preliminary Proceedings.

(1) The court shall determine that the proper parties are present. The respondent has the right to be present, but the court may proceed in the absence of the respondent provided notice has been served on the respondent. The child may be excused as the court determines the child's interests require.

(2) The court shall read the allegations in the petition, unless waived.

(C) Evidentiary Matters.

(1) Evidence; Standard of Proof. Except as otherwise provided in these rules, the rules of evidence for a civil proceeding and the standard of proof by a preponderance of evidence apply at the trial, notwithstanding that the petition contains a request to terminate parental rights.

(2) Child's Statement. Any statement made by a child under 10 years of age or an incapacitated individual under 18 years of age with a developmental disability as defined in MCL 330.1100a(25) regarding an act of child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation, as defined in MCL 722.622 (f), (j), (w), or (x), performed with or on the child by another person may be admitted into evidence through the testimony of a person who heard the child make the statement as provided in this subrule.

(a) A statement describing such conduct may be admitted regardless of whether the child is available to testify or not, and is substantive evidence of the act or omission if the court has found, in a hearing held before trial, that the circumstances surrounding the giving of the statement provide adequate indicia of trustworthiness. This statement may be received by the court in lieu of or in addition to the child's testimony.

(b) If the child has testified, a statement denying such conduct may be used for impeachment purposes as permitted by the rules of evidence.

(c) If the child has not testified, a statement denying such conduct may be admitted to impeach a statement admitted under subrule (2)(a) if the court has found, in a hearing held before trial, that the circumstances surrounding the giving of the statement denying the conduct provide adequate indicia of trustworthiness.

(D) Recommendation by Lawyer-Guardian ad Litem. At the conclusion of the proofs, the lawyer-guardian ad litem for the child may make a recommendation to the finder of fact regarding whether one or more of the statutory grounds alleged in the petition have been proven.

(E) Verdict. In a child protective proceeding, the verdict must be whether one or more of the statutory grounds alleged in the petition have been proven.