It would not be out of the ordinary for a person who is involved with a CPS case to also have warrants out for his or her arrest. You may be attempting to gather evidence to prove your innocence or merely trying to get personal affairs in order before turning yourself in. Now that you are involved in a civil case and have a hearing date upcoming your concern has shifted to whether or not you need to attend a CPS hearing.
If you have read through our blog posts on this subject from the past week you know that it is essential that you attend every court date that a judge sets up. Major decisions regarding you and your child are made at each hearing and your absence means that your position is not being advocated for. It also means that the judge gains the impression that you do not take this case seriously and have something "better to do" but not being in court. Given that you run the risk of not only allowing your child to continue to reside outside your home but also in having your parental rights completely terminated it is never wise to miss a court date.
That brings us back to the initial question posed in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan- should you go to a CPS hearing even if you have a warrant out for your arrest? Let’s answer that question before we go any further in our on-going analysis of CPS cases in Texas.
What to do if you have a warrant out in your name- or think you do
Whether or not you know that you have the warrant out for your arrest- or just think that you might- you should speak to your lawyer before going to a hearing. If the upcoming hearing is the first in a series of hearings (as in, you've never been to court before) you may not have an attorney. If you cannot afford a lawyer then the earliest you will likely be able to ask to have one appointed for you will be at the initial adversarial hearing.
If at all possible you should handle the warrant before having to come to court for your CPS hearing. Obviously, if you fail to do so you could be arrested at your CPS hearing for the warrant. This would not be ideal, for obvious reasons as well. A simple internet search can reveal whether or not have you have any active warrants out for your arrest. Go to your county sheriff's website to look. You can then go to your county's criminal courts website to see if your name appears for any reason. You may not be able to find out all of the information in existence but you can at least confirm whether or not there is a warrant out for your arrest.
Are you able to bring friends and/or family with you to your hearing?
Anyone that you would like to bring with you to your hearing may join you. At the end of the day, you should feel as comfortable as possible in the courtroom. Let's face it- you are going to be in an uncomfortable position and if you can testify better and represent your interests better with a friend or family member with you then you should arrange for someone to attend court with you.
It is important that you be able to communicate with your friend or family member that they need to act appropriately. It is not an excuse that they are not part of your case if they act disrespectfully or otherwise inappropriately in a courtroom. You may need someone to come with you for moral support but if that person hurts you or your case it will come back as a majorly bad decision for you and your family.
What should you expect the courtroom to look like?
The courtroom will look very similar to many that you have either been inside of previously or have otherwise seen on television. The judge will sit in the front of the room behind a desk with a clerk on one side of him, most likely. Bailiffs will be available to keep order in the courtroom and to ensure that people are seated in the correct areas and noise is kept to a minimum.
Two tables will be placed in front of the judge. The parties to a case will sit behind one of the tables. In the back of the room near the doors when you entered will be rows of seats where you may sit as wait for your case to be called. If you arrive at court before the judge does, it is probable that you can speak to the person next to you in a low voice. However, once the judge enters the courtroom you will be made to stand up as a show of respect. After that point all conversation, unless it is brief and between you and your attorney, must usually cease. If you need to have a long conversation you may step outside the courtroom to do so while court is in session.
How do you need to conduct yourself while in court?
When it is your turn to have your case called you, your attorney and all the other parties to your case will make your way to the front of the courtroom. Your lawyer will direct you on where to stand relative to all of the other people. Some counties have the parties sitting for most of a hearing. Others, like Harris County, will find the parties standing before the judge for the majority of the hearing. Follow the lead of the other people when deciding what you should do.
You are not in charge of the hearing and you should not speak unless the judge asks you to. However, you should be paying attention to what everyone is saying around you even when it is not your turn to speak. There is no shame in asking a judge or an attorney to repeat a question because you did not hear it or did not understand it. The worst thing you could do is give a response to a question that you are not sure of the answer just because you fear that you will look silly or stupid if you do not.
Keep in mind that you may disagree frequently with what people are saying in the hearing. It could be that a CPS caseworker has a different recollection of an event involving your child differently than you do. Rather than interrupt that person, it is best to wait for your turn to be able to speak. This is especially true if the judge is speaking. Under no circumstances should you interrupt a judge when he or she is speaking. The consequences for your doing so can be significant. Your main goal from being in court is to show that you are a safe parent who can offer your child a basic level of care. Showing your emotions may feel good at the moment, but rarely does it stand to benefit you or your child. Ultimately it is only the opinion of the judge that matters when it comes to having your child returned to your home. Keep this in mind when you are tempted to speak out of turn or otherwise interrupt another person.
You can whisper things to your attorney if you believe it is important, but it is not necessary to lean over to him or her every thirty seconds. It will distract your attorney and will likely distract the judge to see you holding court with your attorney so frequently. Finally, if you are addressing the judge you should do so by saying “yes, your honor” and things of that nature. Do not talk to the judge like you would a family member or even your attorney. An enhanced level of respect is necessary, even if you do not feel like displaying respect to him or her.
Basic advice for speaking to a judge and having a productive hearing
Remember that you only have a few opportunities to go before the judge in your case. Even if CPS has seemingly been impressed by the progress that you have made in following a safety or service plan, the only person that you need to be impressed is the judge. With that said, you need to be able to stand up for yourself and your child in a hearing setting.
Be on time for your hearing. Leave earlier than is necessary, even if you live close to the courthouse. Waiting an hour for the court to start beats having to wait in traffic as your hearing is set to begin. Next, show respect and respect will be given to you. Your emotions may be telling you to be on the defensive in your hearing but that is not necessary. Remember that nobody in that courtroom has anything personal against you.
You should address the judge directly and ask him or her for anything that you may need. If you have asked CPS for assistance in completing a particular task and they have not been responsive you should take the opportunity to ask the judge about it now. This shows a judge that you are engaged in your case and are willing to do whatever it takes to get your child back in your home. Remaining silent in court, yet working hard behind the scenes, is not enough. As a professor told me back when I was in law school: courtroom appearances are all about the sizzle, not the steak.
Working with your support system to achieve a favorable result in your CPS case
Being involved in a CPS case means that you have to have family, friends and other supportive people in your life who can help you get through the process. Family Group Decision Making meetings are set up every so often by CPS where you can invite people to come and support you in this difficult time. These meetings are held before the time that your child is removed from your care. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which is to say that if you can prevent your child’s removal you will avoid the tougher task of having to get him or her back.
The support system that attends a meeting with you can help you to figure out ways that you can improve your home environment moving into the future. To make sure that your child is safe at home you may need to rely on what other people see and less on what you have seen in yourself. I can tell you that in some instances other people have been better able to tell me how I have approached situations than I would have been able to do on my own. Use these folks to help you address conflicts that have impacted your ability to care for your child. Your family members are great at holding one another accountable.
In tomorrow’s blog post we will continue to discuss the topic of family and group decision making and how these situations can impact your CPS case.
Questions about CPS or other family law issues? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
We appreciate your interest in the important topic of CPS cases. I have had the opportunity to speak to many people in our community of late who have had contact with CPS in relation to allegations of abuse or neglect of a child. If you find yourself in a similar situation I would recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. We have experience in CPS cases across southeast Texas and would be honored to speak to you regarding how we can assist you and your family moving forward.
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- Family Law Cases in Texas: Examining the steps in a Child Protective Services case
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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.