Section 12-15-310

Conduct of adjudicatory hearings.

(a) An adjudicatory hearing is a hearing at which evidence is presented for a juvenile court to determine if a child is dependent. At the commencement of the hearing, if the parties are not represented by counsel, they shall be informed of the specific allegations in the petition. The parties shall be permitted to admit or deny the allegations prior to the taking of testimony.

(b) If the allegations are denied by the parties or if they fail to respond, the juvenile court shall proceed to hear evidence on the petition. The juvenile court shall record its findings on whether the child is dependent. If the juvenile court finds that the allegations in the petition have not been proven by clear and convincing evidence, the juvenile court shall dismiss the petition.

(c) A statement made by a child under the age of 12 describing any act of sexual conduct performed with or on the child by another, not otherwise admissible by statute or court rule, is admissible in all dependency cases brought by the State of Alabama acting by and through a local department of human resources if:

(1) The statement was made to a social worker, child sexual abuse therapist or counselor, licensed psychologist, physician, or school or kindergarten teacher or instructor; and

(2) The juvenile court finds that the time, content, and circumstances of the statement provide sufficient indicia of reliability. In making its determination, the juvenile court may consider the physical and mental age and maturity of the child, the nature and duration of the abuse or offense, the relationship of the child to the offender, and any other factor deemed appropriate.

(d) A statement may not be admitted pursuant to this section unless the proponent of the statement makes known to the adverse party the intention of the proponent to offer the statement and the particulars of the statement sufficiently in advance of the proceedings to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to rebut the statement. This child hearsay exception applies to all hearings involving dependency including, but not limited to, the 72-hour hearing requirement, the adjudicatory hearing, and the dispositional hearing. The exception contained in this subsection shall not apply to a criminal proceeding or charge.

(Act 2008-277, p. 441, §18.)