Supposed that you are a parent of a child who was recently removed by CPS from your home. What’s more, now CPS has gone to court and asked a judge for an order that allows them to keep conservatorship rights to your child for an indefinite basis. It is a powerless feeling to know that your child’s well being hangs in the balance of a CPS investigation.
It is an even more powerless feeling to be a parent who is named in court documents when you are not even the subject of the CPS investigation. If you are what is known as a “non-offending parent” you could be named in the petition for the only reason that you are one of the child’s parents.
The benefits of involving yourself in a CPS case where you are a non-offending parent
If you find yourself in a position where your child has been named as someone who has suffered abuse or neglect by their other parent, you may want to become involved in the case even if you are not being investigated. For instance, if you are a divorced parent who has visitation rights to your child you may want to become involved in the CPS case so that your child can live with you during the CPS case.
On the other hand, if you are living with the parent who was accused of neglect or abuse the situation is a little more complicated. Even if you did not participate in any abusive or neglectful activities it could still be argued that you are an abuser or neglector yourself due to your not having taken steps to prevent the abuse or neglect.
The risk grows if CPS attempts to have your spouse’s parental rights terminated. If that occurs yours could also be terminated even after you did nothing to directly abuse or neglect your child. For these reasons, it is advisable to become involved in the CPS case if CPS has not reached out to you directly. Make sure that CPS allows you to have a say in the process and to participate fully.
Questions about your role as a non-offending parent in a CPS case
If you are the non-offending parent in a CPS case then you have the right to be represented by an attorney in the case and to ask questions in hearings. If you have evidence to put forward that can substantiate an allegation or give credence to your own arguments that your child should reside with you rather than another person that can be offered as well.
As the non-offending parent, you have the right to have your child placed into your home unless the court finds that doing so is not in the best interests of your child. Depending on the circumstances of your case you may have to go through a home study or other evaluation before a judge feels comfortable naming you as the custodial parent for the duration of the CPS case.
Finally, if you are the non-offending parent you may still have to go through a service plan or do other things in order to gain primary conservatorship of your child. Many of the same courses, therapy and counseling sessions and other requirements that people commonly think to apply only to the offending parent can also apply to you. For these reasons it is recommended that you hire an attorney as well to help you navigate the process of having your child placed into your home.
Going to court as a non-offending parent
To make sure that your rights are advocated for, and so that you understand what is happening in your child’s life, it is important that you are a part of any court hearing that is scheduled in your child’s case.
This means that you will have to request time off work and make yourself available for an entire day if necessary. If you hire an attorney he or she can do the heavy lifting during the hearing itself but all decisions regarding where your case should go are to be made by you. Your attorney is there for advice.
If you are named as the parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child you should no longer be responsible to pay child support. To make sure the necessary changes are done you would need to take the order that grants you this right to the Office of the Attorney General to have them update their records and remove your name as one who owes child support. Any past due amounts of child support would still be owed, but your future obligations would go away as a result of winning primary conservatorship rights to your child.
How to conduct yourself during a CPS investigation if you are a father to a child
In situations where you are unaware that you have a child, not to mention a child who is involved in a CPS investigation, this sort of situation may catch you completely by surprise. The key thing to understand is that a court will need to determine that you are the legal father of a child in order for you to become involved in the case.
Being named as the legal father of a child makes it so that your relationship becomes recognized by the legal system. You will have rights and duties that you need to live up to in regard to the child including providing for him or her on a financial level. You will be able to make decisions in regard to certain areas of their life and can leave an inheritance to your child.
Are you the legal father to a child?
Look to the child’s birth certificate to determine if you are legally the father of the child. If you were not married to the mother of your child at the time your child was born there is not a legal presumption that you are the father and you will not be put on the child’s birth certificate unless you or the mother establish legally that you are the father.
You can do so by signing an acknowledgment of paternity form and have that filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin. You can have child support established through the Office of the Attorney General and can file a paternity petition asking to be named as the father to the child.
If you have not had a relationship to the child and are not the legal father of the child (at least as of yet), CPS may name you as the alleged father of your child. The offending parent would have stated to investigators that you are the likely father to the child. CPS will then need to verify that you are the biological and legal father of the child involved in order to allow you to become a part of the case.
You can take a DNA test to determine parentage. The Office of the Attorney General will administer the test and once the results are received a determination will be made as to whether or not you are the biological father to the child. If you are not the biological father you will not be able to participate in the CPS investigation or case.
The results of the DNA test are what really matters. If even after the DNA testing is complete you believe that you are not the father of the child then you need to contact an attorney to represent you moving forward. These tests are tough to dispute and you will need an attorney to put forth arguments that can substantiate your claim.
More information on the father’s role in a CPS case to be posted in tomorrow’s blog
If you are a father who has struggled to have a relationship with your child and now find yourself involved in a CPS case where the child’s mother is being investigated you will want to come back to the blog tomorrow and read more tomorrow.
Any questions regarding CPS cases or family law matters, in general, can be answered by contacting the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week here in our office.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
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- CPS and how The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can help
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
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- Texas Parental Visitation – Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas – Part 1
- Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?
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- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders 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 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