If you’ve been reading the blog posts from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC for the past few weeks you’ll know that we’ve been focusing on Child Protective Services (CPS) cases recently. This is due to our office having spoken with a number of people in our community who have come to our office to speak to our attorneys about situations that involve CPS investigations. For such an important and possibly life altering topic there wasn’t as much information available as we would have liked. This led us to writing these blog posts in an effort to help make sure people like yourself have answers to questions related to this subject.
For the most part we have shared with you information that relates to how you are supposed to act within a case. Whether it be towards your CPS caseworker, family or parties to a lawsuit filed by CPS we wanted to approach these posts from the perspective of you as a parent going through this difficult time. If you feel more comfortable with the process you will likely be a better party to the case and more likely then to be able to have your child returned to your home if he or she is removed due to allegations of abuse or neglect.
Today I would like to look at reasonable expectations that you should have for your attorney in a CPS case. Attorneys are duty bound to represent you as a client to the best of their abilities and to put your interests and goals ahead of their own. Family law attorneys who represent you in a CPS case are no different. There are a handful of responsibilities that your attorney has in relation to their representation of you that I will discuss now.
The responsibility to meet with you as soon as possible
Once you have hired an attorney or have had one appointed to you by the judge in your CPS case, the lawyer should contact you by phone to set up an in person meeting. If you have a court date coming up this meeting should occur at least two days prior to court so that you and your attorney can discuss strategy and goals. Your attorney should have at least a day after your meeting to work on your presentation of evidence based on anything new that has come up in your meeting.
The responsibility to meet with any persons with information about your case
Your attorney should reach out to any CPS personnel who have been involved in the investigation of your case, your child’s attorney, any Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) who have been assigned to your case as well as any other person that may have information that is needed for your hearing. Obviously your attorney will have spoken to you about the nature of the allegations made against you but if your attorney can learn from others about their perspective into your case it can be enlightening and extremely helpful.
The responsibility to make sure you are aware of any documents that have been filed with the court
When CPS first files a petition to have your child removed from your home, an affidavit (statement made under oath) will be filed along with the petition. This affidavit will detail the reasons why CPS became involved with your family in the first place and the reasons why they believe that it is in your child’s best interests to be removed from your home.
Their justifications for seeking temporary custody of your child need to be explained to you by your attorney. This is not something where you will want to have to guess at the reasons for your child’s removal or wonder why it is that CPS is “picking” on you and your family. The language used in these documents is not always straightforward so if something is confusing to you please have your attorney discuss this with you. As new documents are filed your attorney should make them all available to you and answer any questions that you have. Do not feel like you are wasting your attorney’s time by asking questions. Your attorney must be able to explain the issues of your case to you. If she is unable to do so how can you feel confident about her ability to explain the issues to a judge?
The responsibility to explain to you proposed court orders and how they can impact you and your child
Each time you go to court for a hearing, the judge will typically issue orders from the bench that will get written down in an order that is signed off by all the parties to your case. These orders are not mere suggestions for your or any other party’s behavior. They are specific edicts from the judge that will dictate how you behave in any situation regarding your life and this investigation.
The last thing you will want to do is to do your best to try and live by the terms of the order but then fail in some area that you did not understand what was being expected of you. The easiest way to avoid this problem altogether is to speak to your attorney about whatever court orders have been laid out in your case. Ask for an explanation of each thing you are expected to do and your lawyer will walk you through each accordingly.
The responsibility to learn your goals for your case and to work towards achieving those goals
Accomplishing your interests and goals is the primary objective of your attorney in a CPS case. When you meet with your attorney early on and tell her what you want to have happen in this case your lawyer will speak to you about each goal and will give you advice and perspective on all of them. If you have a goal that is not feasible your attorney should tell you as much. There is a difference between “infeasible” and “unlikely”, however. Just because a goal will be hard to achieve does not mean it should not be a goal for you.
Your attorney may not tell you everything you want to hear, and that’s ok. In fact- your lawyer would be doing you a disservice by only telling you things that make you feel good rather than telling you things that allow you some perspective on your case. It is ok to disagree with your attorney. Ultimately in situations where you and your attorney disagree on a subject in your case, you are the one who has the final say- not your attorney.
The responsibility to communicate with you on a regular basis about your case
If you have a hearing, meeting or counseling session coming up it is your attorney’s job to keep you up to date about this. If she spoke with the attorney for CPS regarding conditions under which your child may be returned to your home then that conversation needs to be relayed to you so that you can weigh in on those conditions and whether they are agreeable to you.
How can you help your lawyer in representing you? Let’s find out in tomorrow’s blog post
Your attorney is the one who represents your interests in hearings and with CPS personnel, but she is not there to fight your battles alone. You too have responsibilities that need to be met to best ensure the accomplishment of whatever goals you have for your CPS case. Please join us tomorrow as we discuss those issues in detail.
If you have questions regarding CPS cases or any other subject in family law please do not hesitate to contact our office today. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC offer free of charge consultations six days a week. We will work with you to answer your questions and to assist you in learning more about your legal situation.