The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 5315. Merits adjudication
(a) At a hearing on the merits of a petition, the State shall have the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the child is in need of care and supervision. In its discretion, the court may make findings by clear and convincing evidence.
(b) The parties may stipulate to the merits of the petition. Such stipulation shall include a stipulation as to the facts that support a finding that the child is in need of care and supervision.
(c) If the merits are contested, all parties shall have the right to present evidence on their own behalf and to examine witnesses.
(d) A merits hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the Vermont Rules of Evidence. A finding of fact made after a contested temporary care hearing based on nonhearsay evidence may be adopted by the court as a finding of fact at a contested merits hearing, provided that a witness who testified at the temporary care hearing may be recalled by any party at a contested merits hearing to supplement his or her testimony.
(e) If the merits are contested, the court after hearing the evidence shall make its findings on the record.
(f) If the court finds that the allegations made in the petition have not been established, the court shall dismiss the petition and vacate any temporary orders in connection with this proceeding. A dismissal pursuant to this subsection is a final order subject to appeal.
(g) If the court finds that the allegations made in the petition have been established based on the stipulation of the parties or on the evidence if the merits are contested, the court shall order the Department to prepare a disposition case plan not later than seven business days before a scheduled disposition hearing. An adjudication pursuant to this subsection is not a final order subject to appeal separate from the resulting disposition order.
(h) The court in its discretion and with the agreement of the parties may waive the preparation of a disposition case plan and proceed directly to disposition based on the initial case plan filed with the court pursuant to section 5314 of this title. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 153 (Adj. Sess.), § 28.)