Family law cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS) involve some of the more frustrating and challenging subject matter of any case that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC helps clients with. When CPS becomes involved in a family's life, it may just be for a few weeks, but it can feel like so much longer.
Being told that you need to improve an aspect of your parenting and the consequences of the failure to show improvement because your children may be removed from your home causes the hair to stand up on the back of many parents' necks.
While having your children removed from your home is certainly not the norm when it comes to a CPS case, it can happen given the right circumstances. When CPS does remove a child from their home, they will first look for a family member to place the child with. Often a grandparent is an obvious and safe choice to place the child while they work with parents to sort of any issues in the home that may present a risk of harm to the child. This occurs when CPS receives a report of abuse or neglect by you, your spouse, or another adult living in your home with your children.
What CPS does to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect of your child.
A caseworker from CPS will be assigned to investigate any allegations of abuse or neglect of your child by you or your spouse. While CPS seeks to be as non-invasive as possible, their actions in your situation may result in their becoming over-involved. The investigation has a certain amount of time with which it will need to turn up evidence to continue to have your child reside outside of your home. If the investigation is fruitless and no evidence is turned up to substantiate the allegations of abuse or neglect, the case is supposed to be closed, and your child returned to live with you and your spouse in your home.
Suppose evidence is found, and a court agrees with the removal of your child. In that case, you are likely to be given periods of visitation at a CPS facility with your child during the pendency of the investigation. A parenting plan that dictates steps you must take to secure your home will be agreed to by you, your spouse, and the CPS caseworker. You must abide by the parenting plan and report problems and updates to CPS as they arise.
Your caseworker will be present at any court hearing where they will testify to any updates in your case- good or bad. Suppose you cooperate with the investigation and participate as agreed in the parenting plan. In that case, a court will likely be more willing to allow your children to return to your home once specific steps are met.
How do the court's factor into this process?
If your child has been removed from your home and is placed with either your or your spouse's parents, a family law court that approved the removal must provide you and your spouse with a hearing within fourteen days of your child being removed. This hearing's purpose will be to determine whether or not the removal was justified based on the factual evidence available to determine if a risk of harm was present in your home at that time.
If the court determines that the removal was justified, this initial hearing will also be utilized to determine where your child will live for the duration of the case. Keep in mind that the total length of a CPS case can be up to 18 months, though it is likely that the length will not be near that long.
If you are reading this as a grandparent, you should consider hiring an attorney as soon as you can once your grandchild is placed into your care after being removed from your home if you want your grandchild to remain in your home.
What can happen at the initial removal hearing
Much of what will happen at this hearing will depend upon what is alleged about the abuse or neglect of you or your spouse towards your child. Also meaningful is the relationship that both of you have with whichever set of grandparents your child was placed with.
If grandparents support your child's return to your home, they can try to win temporary conservatorship of your child. At the same time, not file a lawsuit of their own seeking a more permanent conservatorship over your child. This way, they can be available as a home for your child and be supportive of you in your attempts to regain conservatorship of your child.
On the other hand, if the allegations made against you are substantial and the grandparents do not wish to testify on your behalf, then it is likely that they would hire an attorney to represent their interests and then proceed to file a motion to intervene in the CPS lawsuit. The lawsuit would petition the court to award them a permanent conservatorship over your child rather than just temporary placement for the duration of the CPS case. The crux of their argument will be that if your child is returned to you and your spouse, their emotional development or physical health could be potentially harmed. The intervention is critical because grandparents do not have the standing to win conservatorship over their grandchild without it.
How a court will view the involvement of grandparents in a CPS case
Most judges like to see family members, grandparents included, involved in a CPS case. The foster care system in Texas has its problems (you need only perform a quick Google search to see that for yourself), and a judge will be much more content to remove a child if their landing spot is a grandparent's home.
Grandparents do have rights in Texas when attempting to win conservatorship over their grandchild. However, it must be said that their rights pale in comparison to you as a parent of your child. The sort of lawsuit that I mentioned earlier can be brought by a grandparent if:
1. At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had that parents' rights terminated;
2. Denial of possession of the child by the grandparent will significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well-being; and
3. The grandparent seeking possession of the child is a parent of a parent of the child, and that parent of the child:
a. Has been incarcerated for the three months preceding the filing of the suit;
b. Has been found incompetent by a Court;
c. Is dead; or
d. Does not have actual or Court-ordered possession of the child.
Suppose these circumstances are in play in your case. In that case, the allegations of abuse or neglect are significant, and the grandparents want to step in as conservators on more than a temporary basis; you may find yourself with a custody battle to fight in addition to a CPS case to manage.
Questions about CPS cases and a grandparent's rights? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
It can feel like the end of the world when CPS becomes involved with your family. However, this does not have to be the case. If you are facing a CPS case and do not know where to turn next, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas in CPS matters and would be honored to do the same for you. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.