When it comes to Child Protective Services (CPS) and the potential impact a CPS investigation can have on you and your family it is always advisable to have an attorney in your corner representing you. You will be in a situation where you will need to make decisions on a number of different subjects during the life of your CPS case. What’s more- a case can last up to one year from the date on which your child is removed from your home so it is a long process to attempt to handle the situation on your own.
The decision to hire an attorney (or to ask one to be appointed to you) is an important one to make. The details of how you can do so will be covered in today’s blog post. While there are quite a bit of services that an attorney can provide you with in the context of your CPS case there are limits to even what an attorney can do on your behalf. This will also be gone over in some detail as well.
Hiring a lawyer to represent you in your CPS case
An attorney is a useful person to have help you through your CPS case. Even before courtroom proceedings have begun you can hire an attorney to advise you during the investigation stage and to communicate on your behalf with CPS about the results of that investigation. You can hire a lawyer on your own if you can afford to pay one that is the best case scenario. A court appointed attorney can be made available to you as well but only in the later stages of your case and only if you can prove yourself to be indigent.
If you cannot afford to hire an attorney there are options for you to pursue. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC offers the advice of our attorneys on a limited basis if you cannot afford a retainer and monthly payment that many attorneys require. An attorney can review your case and offer you advice on how to proceed but will not attend court with you or any other meetings associated with your CPS case. While this is not the ideal situation, it can at least help you get through the initial stages of your case with some degree of representation in hand.
What do you need to do in order to have an attorney appointed to you by the judge?
There are three requirements that must be in place for the judge to appoint an attorney to represent you in your CPS case.
First and foremost you must be found to be indigent by the judge. This means that you have a limited income and do not have the resources available to you to afford to hire an attorney. If you have property that can be sold to hire an attorney be prepared to discuss that with the judge.
Secondly, there must have been a lawsuit filed by CPS where the agency is asking a judge to be appointed as a temporary managing conservator of your child in order for you to be able to have an attorney appointed to represent you in your CPS case.
Finally, you must actually appear in open court in opposition to the petition that had been filed by CPS requesting that they be named the temporary managing conservator of your child. You cannot simply mail a letter to the judge asking him to appoint you an attorney because you cannot afford one.
What are the income limits to being found to be an indigent person?
Indigency is determined on a case by case basis by the judge in your case because there is no specific law on this subject in the Texas Family Code. You will likely need to fill out a form that asks you to list out your assets and how much income you earn from your work on a monthly basis. Your expenditures in terms of monthly rent, utilities, and transportation will be balanced against those assets and income. If you receive government assistance in the form of housing allowances, Medicaid, food stamps or any similar programs this will offer you a leg up in allowing you to qualify for a court appointed attorney.
When will your court appointed attorney actually available to represent you?
Once it has been determined that you meet all three requirements for the court to appoint you an attorney for your CPS case a lawyer should be appointed to you. Depending upon when you are approved for the attorney you may be able to speak to the lawyer prior to your first hearing. On the other hand, if the judge seeks to make the determination at the initial hearing you can have your lawyer appointed on that date. This hearing will occur within fourteen days of your child being removed from your home. If a lawyer has not been appointed to represent you by this time you should bring it to the court’s attention at the hearing.
Discussing your case with your attorney
Once appointed by the judge or hired by you, your attorney will want to learn as much as she can about you, your child and your CPS investigation. These are not going to be the sort of questions you likely enjoy having to answer. Some of the questions may cause you to reveal intensely private and personal information that is embarrassing or casts you in a negative light. Despite this, it is advisable to be up front and share any detail you can with your attorney.
Keep in mind that your attorney is duty bound to keep confidential any information you provide to her unless you give permission to her to share that with any person. Honesty is the best policy. If you cannot be honest with your attorney then you will struggle to find anyone involved in your case who you feel like you can share important information with.
From the perspective of an attorney, we want to know as much as we can about your case and you before a hearing begins. This way we can plan in advance how to handle good things and bad things that may arise in the hearing. The last thing that we want to encounter is information that we were unaware of that knocks our feet out from under us, so to speak. A surprise in a hearing is usually a bad thing and can hurt your case tremendously. Help your attorney help you by sharing information with her so that she may represent you to the best of her abilities.
The reasons for CPS investigating your family, prior investigations involving you or your spouse and any history of drug or alcohol abuse that you may have in your past are the sort of updates that you need to provide your attorney with no matter how you feel doing so. These are the sort of issues that your attorney can help you prepare for if you tell her in advance. When you lawyer learns about a prior CPS investigation from CPS’ attorney at the hearing she has no opportunity to derive a strategy to combat that fact.
What to talk to your attorney about in relation to your CPS case- tomorrow’s blog post subject
Since your relationship with your attorney is among the most important aspects of your CPS case I want to devote more time to how you can best take advantage of your representative’s experience handling CPS cases for clients like yourself.
If you have questions for an attorney please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We work with people just like you across our community and would be honored to speak to you about doing the same for you and your family. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys.