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Will you qualify for a free attorney in your Texas CPS case?

If you are beginning a court battle where your relationship with your child and your ability to participate in the decision-making portion of their lives was at stake, I am willing to bet that you would like to feel prepared to assert your rights and advocate for yourself. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit in a courtroom (that you have never been in before), with a lot of people in suits (whom you have never met), waiting to have a scary-looking judge call your child's name so a hearing can begin? Would you be prepared to stand up, walk to the front of that courtroom, and defend yourself against the accusations and allegations of a CPS attorney?

Most people, even educated and successful people, would likely have to answer that question with a "no" if they were honest. There is no shame in that. I may answer "yes" to the question that I just posted, but if you asked me to change the oil in my car, I would have to look to someone else for help. Would I like to be able to change the oil of my car? Sure. But the fact is that I can’t. I would need some help to do so successfully.

If you believe that you would need help defending yourself in a CPS case or are currently facing a CPS case where it is becoming quickly evident that you need help, then the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you. In today's blog post, we will pick up where we left off yesterday, discussing the ins and outs of finding a good representation for your CPS case.

Let’s begin by discussing an option that may be available to you, namely having an attorney appointed to your case, free of charge, due to your being indigent.

In what situations could you qualify to have an attorney appointed to your case?

There are three requirements that you must be able to meet before you can have an attorney appointed to represent you in a CPS case.

First, you must be indigent. This is a fancy word for having a low income and not being able to afford to hire an attorney. Different courts may use different tests to determine whether or not you are indigent. A good rule of thumb to go by is that if you are receiving government assistance via food stamps, Medicaid, or government housing, you will likely meet the requirement for being indigent.

Texas law does not specifically spell out how you can or cannot be determined to be indigent. Some courts in southeast Texas will ask you to fill out some paperwork to write down much money you earn in your job every month. Expenses like rent, utilities, daycare, and the like will need to be examined as well to determine how much income you have leftover after your monthly expenses are attended to.

No matter if you think you will meet this requirement or not, you should fill out this form. The upside is that you could have a lawyer appointed to you at no cost. There is no downside to at least asking and showing the judge what your financial situation looks like.

Next, CPS must have already filed a lawsuit in your child’s case. A lawsuit is a formal legal case against you, wherein they are asking to continue to be named as temporary caretakers for your child. The end goal of their lawsuit may be to terminate your parental rights and have a relative, foster family, or other person be named the permanent caretaker of your child. Before a lawsuit is filed, you will not be able to ask a court to have an attorney appointed to represent you.

Finally, you must respond to the petition that is filed by CPS that initiates the lawsuit. You have to make yourself available to the court by attending the initial hearing, making it known that you will oppose the CPS case, and requesting an attorney appointed to represent you. If you choose to sit the case out on your couch, then not only will you not be able to have an attorney appointed to represent you, but you will likely have your parental rights terminated sooner rather than later.

After you request a lawyer, how quickly can one be appointed to represent you?

If you meet all of the above requirements for having an attorney appointed to represent you in your CPS case, the next question you will likely want to be answered is how quickly can an attorney be appointed to your case? The answer to that question depends upon where your case is being heard. Many judges will assume that because you are present in their courtroom and indigent, you automatically oppose CPS removing your child from your home. It can happen that the judge will automatically contact an attorney to have him or she represents you in the CPS case, in which case, you may receive a call from an attorney before you ever see the inside of a courtroom.

However, most judges will wait for you to attend your first hearing to appoint an attorney to represent you. That judge will then run through the above requirements to ensure that you meet the requirements of having an attorney appointed to represent you. An initial hearing in your child’s case will occur at the most fourteen days after your child has been removed from your home. At that point, you can request an attorney to represent you, and the court will start the above analysis.

Once you have an attorney’s name who has been appointed to represent you, it will vary on how long it takes that lawyer to contact you. It should not be longer than a few days after the hearing date, where the judge appoints the attorney until he or she reaches out to you with a phone call. If you do not hear from the lawyer, you should contact the court and ask them for the lawyer's contact information. The judge’s clerk should also reach out to the attorney and ask him or her to contact you.

How should you handle a situation where the court takes a long time to appoint you an attorney?

The law in Texas says that you are entitled to have an attorney represent you if you cannot afford to hire one yourself and that the CPS lawsuit is seeking to terminate your parental rights. However, keep in mind that the law does not say exactly how quickly a judge must go through the process of having an attorney appointed to represent you.

Most judges will appoint an attorney as quickly as possible if you meet the above requirements. Other judges will wait until the later stages of the case. You do not have many options to contest your judge if she decides to wait. All you can do is ask for an attorney for every opportunity that you get.

What should you tell your lawyer about your case and life?

There are probably a lot of aspects to your life that you would like to keep private. This is especially true when you are involved in a CPS case. It's not like CPS has filed a lawsuit against you so that they can name you Parent of the Year. Allegations are being made that you have either abused or neglected one of your children. Just the thought of it is enough to make you want to curl up into a ball and never let anyone else know about what has happened that caused the allegation(s) to be made.

The problem with that feeling is that you need to work against the urge to keep everything private in your life. You may be a proud, independent person who has taken care of yourself for a long time. Even though there are times when you have felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting your child, you have done everything you could to care for him or her. Having to rely on another person, like a lawyer, to help you can be a difficult pill to swallow.

Your lawyer’s job is to ask you questions about you, your child, and your family. They are not being nosy or rude or anything of the sort when they ask you questions like that. Your lawyer has likely handled cases like yours before and has seen people who are worse off, believe it or not. Depending on how comfortable you feel with your attorney, it may feel like he or she is stepping over the line as far as what is being asked of you. Should you answer questions that you do not want to?

The bottom line is that, while you do not have to answer any questions you do not want to, it is in your best interest to do so. The reason is that the more information your attorney has, the better he can advise you when it comes to decision-making in your case. Secondly, remember that what you tell your lawyer will remain confidential unless you allow your attorney to disclose the information.

The more information you provide to your attorney, the better off you will be (generally speaking). If what you tell your attorney has to do with your CPS case, then it is likely that the information will come to light anyways. Remember- in a hearing or trial, you can be questioned as a witness under oath. In that situation, you must tell the truth or risk suffering the consequences of having lied under oath.

One of the best comparisons I can make in this situation is to ask you to think about when you were a kid. If you did something wrong, it might have been your first instinct to try to cover that wrong up until you can figure out a way to make that wrong go away. Odds are if you went that route, you put a lot of time and effort into the cover-up, only to have made the situation worse. On top of all that, the bad deed that you did came to light anyways.

Compare that to your attorney-client relationship. If you can tell your attorney about the thing that you are embarrassed about, then chances are your attorney will be able to help you think of a way to make that situation appear a whole lot better than it is. One of the worst things you can do is try to hide something from your lawyer. If your lawyer doesn’t know about a situation, he cannot help you prepare for its consequences. I can tell you from experience that it is a helpless feeling to learn about a fact of your client’s life while an opposing attorney is questioning him or her. Be honest with your attorney, and your life will be better off for having been so.

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  6. Family Law Cases in Texas: The final stages of a CPS case
  7. When can CPS remove your child from your home in Texas and what can you do about it?
  8. What to do if you no longer like your CPS service plan?
  9. In what circumstances could your child end up living with your relative during a CPS case?
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  11. What to do if your spouse is being investigated by CPS in Texas for abuse or neglect of your child?
  12. Can CPS photograph your house and request your child’s medical records in Texas?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS Defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC 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 the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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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