Family Law Cases in Texas: Examining the steps in a Child Protective Services case

During the past few weeks, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have taken an opportunity to write about the steps of different types of family lawcases in an effort to help you prepare for beginning one. Whether you have never been to court or are a courtroom veteran, we hope that this information is useful.

If you have not already done so, I would recommend that you go back over the past few days and read our blog posts on the basics of courtroom conduct as well as the introductory material that we provided you with about Child Protective Services (CPS) cases.

Today we will continue our discussion on CPS cases by bringing you into the family law courthouse and showing you what the steps are in a CPS case. If you are involved in a CPS case the volume of people that you encounter and the number of possible courtroom appearances you may have to appear in can be overwhelming. To compensate for this we will break down each stage of the case in some detail to differentiate each from one another.

When are you required to go to court in a CPS case

Unlike other kinds of family law cases, where settlements and negotiations are ongoing, CPS cases typically require courtroom appearances and judge made rulings in order to resolve issues. This simplifies things to an extent but also can lengthen a case dramatically. It’s possible that you will need to attend a handful of hearings in order to present your case to a judge and to allow CPS to do the same.

The purpose of each of the following courtroom appearances is unique, meaning that you will not repeat the same information to a judge over and over. Usually, judges are looking for steps that you are taking in order to satisfy the safety plan or agreements made with CPS in order to get back the primary conservatorship of your child.

Emergency Hearing

An Emergency Hearing is the first step in the CPS case process if your child has been removed from your home. If CPS deems your situation to be an emergency they can remove your child without a court order but must seek one from a judge within one working day of when their Petition is filed in court seeking to grant themselves conservatorship rights to your child.

It’s likely that you will not be able to attend this hearing given how quickly the hearing takes place relative to when your child is removed. The reason the hearing is held is for the judge to understand why your child was removed in the first place and whether the facts and circumstances justify their continued removal from your home.

CPS will have to justify their removal by presenting information that their investigators have dug up thus far in their investigation. The judge will be interested in learning what accusations and allegations have been made against you and why your home presents a present danger and risk to your child’s well being. If there are relatives of your child who can take him or her in during the case CPS will need to tell the judge any efforts to place your child into this type of situation rather than foster care.

Show Cause or Adversarial hearing

The next hearing, and likely the first that you would be present for, is called a Show Cause or Adversarial hearing. This is the stage where if you can have an attorney present with you it is absolutely in your best interest that you have one. The hearing occurs within fourteen days after your child was removed from your home. It is at this hearing that the judge will decide whether removing your child was appropriate and to set forth some orders to ensure that your child is safe until the case is completed.

In all likelihood, this will be your first opportunity to have your child returned to you. The judge may believe that the circumstances that led to your child’s removal are no longer in place, and therefore continued removal is inappropriate. Or the judge may believe that there were never sufficient circumstances in place to justify the removal.

It is important for you and your attorney to be able to communicate any change in circumstances to the judge in order to allow him or her to weigh those facts. The CPS attorney handles dozens of cases per day in a large county like Harris, so it’s unlikely that he or she knows of any specific facts from your case. Use this to your advantage.

On the other hand, the judge could place your child with a member of your or your spouse’s family if a suitable home is available. It is recommended that you provide the names, contact information, and addresses for possible homes for your child to your attorney prior to the hearing and to bring this information to the actual court date. Even if your child is not returned to you it is undoubtedly better for your child to stay with a family friend or relative rather than in foster care.

Finally, it could be determined by the judge that it is in your child’s best interest to remain in the care of CPS temporarily while your case is ongoing. No matter what the end result is, the purpose of the Show Cause hearing is for you to be able to present a case from your perspective. Your attorney will work with you on removing any dangerous conditions or persons in order to show the judge what positive steps you are taking to ensure the safety of your child.

Permanency Planning Team Meetings

Permanency Planning Team Meetings are an informal event that takes place within a month or so of your child being removed from your home. This meeting is repeated every four months thereafter until the end of your case.

The meeting does not take place in court and the judge will not be present. The other parties in your case will be present including you, your attorney, the CPS attorney, CPS investigators and any representatives on behalf of your child. In some circumstances, your child may even be allowed to attend if he or she is over the age of 12.

It is at this first meeting that a service plan is developed stating goals for your child. Typically the goal is reuniting your child with you in your home, but depending on your situation CPS could also intend to terminate your parental rights in extreme situations or place your child with relatives or family friends if that is preferable.

This is going to be an opportunity for you to speak face to face with the investigator who removed your child from your home and for you to learn more about why he or she was removed if you still have questions about that. The service plan is instituted in order so that you know what you have to do specifically to get your child back in your home. Once a service plan is agreed to it will be presented in court to the judge for formal approval.

Even though the Permanency Planning Meeting is informal it is crucial that you attend the meeting. Absences from important events in a CPS case can really damage your case and makes a positive resolution for you and your family less likely.

For more on the stages of a CPS case, be sure to come back tomorrow

In tomorrow’s blog post we will continue to go over the stages of a CPS case as we get closer to the final stages. If you have any questions about what we discussed today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. A licensed family law attorney with our office can meet with you at no charge, six days a week.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Managing a Family Law case in Texas
  2. Texas Family Courts: Child Protective Services, Part Two
  3. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case, Part Two
  4. What to know about Child Protective Services
  5. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
  6. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
  7. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
  8. 16 Steps to help you Plan and Prepare for your Texas Divorce
  9. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case
  10. Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
  11. Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
  12. Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
  13. The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our cps defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles cps cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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