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Finding permanency for your child in a Child Protective Services case

Your life was probably pretty predictable before Child Protective Services became involved in an investigation regarding your child. You woke up, got ready for work, got your child ready for school, and resumed the process the following day. Maybe there were a few bumps in the road during the middle of it, but basically, life is proceeding much like your neighbors and friends.

Now that CPS has inserted itself into your life, you no longer know what to expect. For one, your home has been opened up to all sorts of people you would prefer not to be aware of what is happening between you, your spouse, and your child. Those folks are making all sorts of recommendations to you, and from what you can tell, they may want to take your child and place him with another family or, at best, a relative of yours. To top it all off, this is all due to a phone call made by some anonymous person to CPS over a complete misunderstanding involving your child.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding your CPS investigation, understand that the investigation will only be for a relatively short amount of time. Did you know that when your child is removed from your home, a trial must be held within one year from that date? The trial will determine the permanent solution for your child in terms of where he is going to live. The judge, CPS, and you will be working to put forth the best case to determine where the best living situation for your child would be.

Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will go over the court aspect of a CPS case and how it will be used to plan for a permanent home for your child.

CPS files a lawsuit, and the court process begins

To maintain a temporary conservatorship over your child, CPS will need to file a lawsuit in a family law court to justify taking your child into their custody. This means that their attorney will appear alongside your CPS investigator to present evidence that will attempt to justify their position and removal of your child. You have the same ability to present evidence as to why it is inappropriate for CPS to keep temporary custody of your child.

The judge will question all parties involved to understand better what has happened and what is actually in your child's best interests based on the circumstances at play. Where your child is staying (with a family member or in foster care), what steps you are already taking to ensure a safe home for your child, and the help that CPS is offering you will all be relevant to discuss.

Attend every hearing- and bring a lawyer

Even though you are the child's parent at the center of the investigation and court process, you must arrive early to every hearing. These hearings can and will start without you, despite your role as the parent. Take a step back and understand that while your child is the most critical person in the world to you, a judge, and the other folks involved in the case, that is not true. To them, your child and you are a number in a long list of numbers that need to get dealt with that day. If your hearing can be sped over because you are not there, they will happily do so. Don't let them do that to you and your child.

Hire an attorney if you can, or ask a judge to appoint one to you if you cannot afford it. What you don't know can hurt you, and not knowing a particular aspect of family law is not an excuse for failing to do something meaningful in your case. Each hearing that is scheduled in your case will accomplish a different task. The judge will write an order that details her expectations for all parties involved. These are not suggestions. They are orders that you must comply with. Make sure that you speak to your attorney after every hearing to make sure that you understand what is expected of you.

Once your child is in foster care or the home of a relative, you will attend a hearing within fourteen days of your child's removal. This hearing is known as a "show cause" hearing where you and your attorney will need to show the judge why the removal of your child was not justified. The judge will listen to CPS and their attorney regarding why the removal was justified. The CPS petition to have your child removed on an ongoing basis can be dismissed if the judge believes that CPS has not offered enough evidence to justify doing so.

On the other hand, if the judge does believe that CPS has offered enough evidence to justify their removal of your child, they will be named as Temporary Managing Conservator of your child. This means that they would continue to be able to exercise temporary custody of your child. You would not lose your parental rights, but it does mean that you would have to defer to CPS in many areas of raising your child.

Where your child will reside, any child support that has to be paid by you, and a visitation schedule that applies to you will be laid out in this hearing as well. Unfortunately, suppose you have a substance abuse issue. In that case, counseling and testing will likely be ordered, which will affect how often and to what extent you can exercise visitation with your child.

Your failure to abide by the order created by the judge could mean that CPS can use those violations to attempt to terminate your parental rights. This does not happen a lot, but in situations where you flagrantly violate a court order, it certainly can happen. Speak to your attorney before doing anything that could be construed as a violation of the court order.

Permanency Placement Meetings

You will likely be attending multiple permanency placement hearings at a local CPS office when you are not in court. These meetings involve you and all of the other parties to your case discussing where your child will be living during the case and what is in your child's best interests for a post-investigation home. A service plan with CPS will be created, and your progress will be reviewed in these permanency placement meetings.

The ultimate goal of finding a permanent home for your child will be discussed in detail in these meetings. Your opinion on the matter will be noted and the other parties to your case. For most parents, the goal of CPS will be to reunite their child with you in your home- bearing in mind that you need to live up to the terms of the service plan. If your child cannot be returned to your home, it will be necessary for your child to live with a relative or in foster care on a longer-term basis.

If you need to update CPS on the service plan and whether or not any aspects of that plan are not going well, these meetings would be the time to do it. Please speak to your lawyer about these issues and have him or she discuss them with the CPS representatives at the meeting.

A continuing discussion on CPS court proceedings- tomorrow's blog topic

The court process associated with a CPS case is critical. Please come back to the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, to learn more about this subject. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact our office today. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.

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