Before the first anniversary of the date that CPS was named as the temporary managing conservator of your child, a trial our final hearing must occur. The exception to this rule would be where an extension is granted if requested by the attorney representing CPS. In that case, the judge would consider the extension request or go ahead and order that the trial must take place. If none of this occurs, the court will lose jurisdiction over the case, and the lawsuit regarding you and your child will automatically be dismissed.
CPS will approach a final hearing to obtain a final order consistent with your child permanency plan before the dismissal date. For the entirety of their CPS case, there will be one central goal in mind in terms of either reuniting you and your child or placing your child in another circumstance permanently. CPS understands that it is not in your child's best interest for them not to have a permanent place to call home.
What does it mean to seek the best interests when it comes to terminating parental rights?
It can seem like a contradictory statement to say that it may be in your child's best interests for your parental rights to be terminated. Well, that is precisely what may occur in the case, depending upon your circumstances. Even though having your parental rights may be something that would break your heart, that does not mean that your child could not benefit from having a new conservatory in their life. While you may love your child, a judge may find that there is enough evidence in place to suggest that it is not in your best interest for you to continue as a parent of your child.
What does termination of parental rights mean? It does not mean that you will no longer be related to your child- at least through blood. You will always be the biological mother or father to your child. It does mean that your legal relationship with your child – the ability to make decisions on their behalf and the duty to care for your child- will be eliminated. You will have no legal ability to act as a parent on behalf of your child. In essence, your relationship with your child (at least legally speaking) will be no different than my relationship with your child.
A judge will look to certain factors when determining what is in your child's best interests and will make decisions about parental rights from there. Your child's age is one factor that will be considered. Depending on your child's age, they may need different things from a parent. Your younger child depends on you entirely for food, shelter, clothing, protection from the elements, etc. Your older children may depend on you for relatively little. Either way, a judge will determine what your child needs from a parent and whether you can contribute positively to that effort. If not, then your parental rights may be in jeopardy.
Next, your history with CPS will be examined. If you have been a frequent subject of CPS investigations, this will likely factor against you when it comes to determining whether to terminate your parental rights. However, if this is the first time you have been involved in a CPS case and you have done a great deal to try and fix whatever problem led to CPS getting involved in your life in the first place, then that is a good sign for maintaining your parental rights.
Unfortunately, an issue that is all too common in CPS cases is substance abuse. Whether that substance is alcohol, street drugs, or prescription medicine, we see problems in CPS cases involving drugs and alcohol with an alarming frequency. Often it comes down to a parent allowing a relative or friend to stay with them in the home with a child. If your child is exposed to a person abusing substances, then this is a bad situation. Even if you reason yourself into a corner saying that they only use the substance when your child is asleep, that can still lead to neglect finding from CPS. If your child gets access to a substance and is seriously harmed by it, your parental rights may be in jeopardy.
Appointing CPS as a permanent managing conservator
Your parental rights can be maintained while CPS is at the same time named the permanent managing conservator. The managing conservator of your child is the person charged with caring for them on a day in and day out basis. You are getting him to school, feeding him, making decisions about medical care, etc. CPS will look to pass that conservatorship responsibility along to someone else during your case. Whether it is you or another person is dependent upon the circumstances of your case.
A judge will typically not look to do something like this unless there are no more desirable options to choose from. The reason is that placing your child in CPS care permanently is not incredibly beneficial for your child. To do so, a judge would need to be presented with evidence that appointing you or your co-parent as managing conservator would not be in your child's best interest because it would significantly impair your child's physical health or emotional development. Or it would not be in your child's best interests to appoint a relative or another person as managing conservator.
Your child's age will play a significant role in determining what happens in this regard. If your child is a teenager, they will be able to express their wishes to the judge to want to be reunited with you. If your child has a strong preference against being adopted, this can also factor into what a judge ultimately decides. It is not as if the judge must follow your child's wishes, but it is usually essential to a judge to at least consider the wishes of your child when it comes to their future.
What happens if you fail to participate in the CPS case?
It may shock you to learn that some parents choose not to participate in the CPS case, which could determine whether they can have a relationship with their children moving forward. In that case, the parent would choose not to respond to a petition to terminate their parental rights or any notice of a future hearing involving the parental rights they have about their children. Whatever their justification, it would not be a good idea for this to be the path you choose to take.
Choosing not to participate in a CPS case means running the risk of a default judgment being entered against you.
Let's walk through what it means to have a default judgment entered against you and what a CPS attorney must prove to approve that a default judgment is appropriate. First, the attorney must show that you were properly served with a citation. The citation would be served along with the petition notifying you of the details as far as your right to respond with an answer by a specific date and what the consequences of your failure to respond may be. That citation must have been on file for at least ten days before seeking a default judgment against you.
Next, the attorney for this state must still be able to prove that termination of your parental rights is appropriate. In other words, the attorney cannot simply terminate your parental rights because you failed to appear and respond to a petition to terminate your parental rights. that must be in your child's best interests and must consider the factors that we discussed previously. From there, a judge will have a decision to make regarding whether to grant the default judgment and terminate your parental rights.
There is an important distinction to make regarding a default judgment when you have filed an answer and a default judgment when you have not filed an answer period once an answer has been filed, the attorney for CPS does not have to provide you with the same type of notice that he would have no answer been filed in the first place. And answer waves any defect in any service or notice previously issued. Once you file a pleading, you must provide an address, telephone number, and fax number for yourself or your attorney if you have an attorney representing you. This makes it more difficult for you to argue that you never received notice of a potential hearing, given that you have the responsibility of providing your best contact information two CPS once you file an answer.
How does visitation work for children in foster care?
If the goal for your child is reunification with you, then a temporary visitation schedule is required to be set up by CPS early in your case. CPS will work with you to allow you to have an opportunity to visit with your child no later than the 5th day after the date on which CPS is named as temporary managing Conservatory of your child. This is true unless CPS determines that visitation is not in your child's best interests or visitation with you would conflict with a court order relating to possession or access of your child. The CPS caseworker will work with you as much as possible to create this type of visitation arrangement.
A visitation schedule of this type is not required for your child if the court has made or will make of finding that circumstances exist that render it inappropriate for you to visit with your child. This could be the case if the violence of some sort has existed in your family or even led to your child being removed from your home in the first place. Either way, a court will address whether you will be able to have visitation with your child and provide you with an explanation of visitation will not be allowed. It would help if you focused on what it means to cooperate as fully as possible with the CPS investigation and do what it takes to regain custody of your child. This can mean different things for different people. Still, almost certainly, it will mean being able to take advantage of every opportunity you have to spend time with your child, and two, communicate proactively with CPS.
Other thoughts regarding CPS cases
It can be extremely disheartening and intimidating to find yourself on the receiving end of a CPS case. One minute you are minding your own business and trying to lead your life the best you can, and the next, you are contacted by CPS, or a caseworker even show up to your front doorstep. Would you know how to proceed? Should you immediately allow the caseworker into your home to talk to you or your child? These are highly relevant questions to ask and ones you should be prepared for to know what to do next if you find yourself in this position.
For starters, CPS receives anonymous tips or reports of abuse or neglect. This means that you will likely never be able to know precisely who contacted CPS regarding potential incidents regarding abuse or neglect of your child. A CPS caseworker will never tell you who engaged them in a phone call or electronic message about your child. All that matters is that CPS will begin to investigate the report and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with an investigation or make a finding of abuse or neglect.
The CPS caseworker will likely provide you with their contact information to interview you, any adult living in your household, and possibly your child depending on their age. It is entirely voluntary for you to participate in the investigation. You can choose not to allow them access to your home or speak to your child. Bear in mind that if CPS obtains a court order, they may be able to remove your child from your home. Additionally, CPS may be able to interview your child at their school without your permission so long as you are not present at the school.
CPS cases do not always or even frequently result in court cases and the potential for your parental rights to be terminated. Instead, it is much more likely for CPS to investigate incidents of abuse or neglect but to allow your child to remain in your home. So long as you participate in the investigation and cooperate with your caseworker, you are more likely to maintain custody so long as there is no immediate risk of harm to your child.
Additionally, there are specific requirements in place regarding meeting deadlines and attending meetings in general with CPS. You will likely not receive updates from CPS regarding these subjects. Instead, it is your responsibility to follow through with these meetings and attend them. With that said, you should consider the benefits of hiring an experienced family law attorney to help you through these times. Not only will the attorney be able to help guide you toward making good decisions, but the attorney will also be able to help you by negotiating on your behalf with CPS and ensuring that you can put your best foot forward towards being reunited with your child as quickly as possible.
Hiring an attorney does not have to be a time-consuming or expensive process. Instead, hiring an attorney should be something that provides you with Peace of Mind and some degree of confidence as you enter an intimidating process like a CPS case. While there is no guarantee of success simply by hiring an attorney, I think the chances of success in a case are significantly increased by having experienced representation by your side. This process begins by meeting with qualified family attorneys in your area and asking them questions about your circumstances and CPS cases in the general period. From there, you can learn a great deal about how you can approach your case better with and I towards completing the case and having CPS no longer be a part of your life.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. I appreciate your interest in our law practice, and we hope you will join us tomorrow as we continue to share relevant and interesting information about Texas family law.
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