Do not think that just because you are going to have to tell your attorney something unpleasant about you or your family that you should not. I can tell you that because I have been representing clients in CPS for many years it is unlikely that there is anything that you have done or allowed to have occurred that I have not seen before.
It is likely that the more honest you and the quicker you can get your child back home. Not talking to your attorney about the problems that led to CPS involvement in your case will only prolong your case and increase the possibility that your child will not be returning home at all.
Questioning asking is at the top of your list of responsibilities in a CPS case
You are not an attorney, nor are you an expert in CPS cases. As such, your lawyer will expect that you have many questions to ask him or her about your case. Do not tell your attorney details about your case at the end as you approach a trial. Rather, allow your attorney to become aware of these circumstances at the beginning of your case so that he can prepare for the rest of your case with these facts in mind.
If there is something that your attorney needs to know but you have not been able to reach him all day despite phone calls and emails, then I would recommend that you continue to try and reach him. Family law attorneys spend a great deal of time in court. Obviously, your attorney will not be able to speak to you while in court so their not having called you back does not mean that you are being ignored. Still, if you continue to contact him there is little doubt that he will attempt to reach you regarding whatever it is that you want to speak to him about.
Have goals that are within reach
A CPS case can be extremely frustrating to participate in. You will find that there are many people involved in your case, and you are only concerned about one- your child. Your lawyer is not there to push down doors and physically take your child from CPS and return him or her to you. It would be great if he or she had the authority to do so, but that is now how our legal system works.
Just because your lawyer cannot do everything that you want him or her to be able to do does not mean that you can let go of all your frustrations about your case with him or her. In fact, there are likely just as many things that you can do in your case that will allow your child to return home to you as your attorney can do. For instance, only you can complete drug or anger management courses. Only you can attend each and every visitation session with your child- no matter how far away the session is or how short a time period it is scheduled to last for.
With that said, you should be able to work with your attorney to create goals for your case that are both realistic and intended to regain permanent custody of your child. If you find yourself frustrated in achieving your goals it is wise to let your attorney know about your frustrations. It is better to let your attorney know how frustrated you are rather than letting your CPS caseworker or the judge know. Emotions are a big part of a CPS case, but in the end, they can work against you if not utilized appropriately.
What to do if you do not see eye to eye with your attorney?
Your attorney has the ability to help you and your child but cannot move heaven and earth in the context of a CPS case. As such, you should not expect that he or she can solve all of the issues associated with your CPS case within the first two weeks of their representing you.
This brings me to an important topic that we have not yet discussed. Namely, what you should do if you find yourself disagreeing with your attorney at every turn in your case. What if it gets to the point where you not only disagree with your attorney but begin to lose confidence that he or she is the right attorney for you? I think before you start to weigh whether or not to continue the relationship, you need to determine why you are losing confidence in your lawyer.
There are a lot of factors in a CPS case that your attorney does not control. He or she cannot speed your case up or slow it down. The path that your case is on is set by the judge in your case. CPS and their attorney probably have more say so in this area than you and your attorney do in all honesty. Your attorney does not get to schedule hearings as they could in other family law cases. Your attorney cannot control how your CPS caseworker treats you. Certainly, if your CPS caseworker is not treating you with respect you should let your attorney know that. However, just because your caseworker isn’t “nice” to you, that probably does not mean that you should fire your lawyer because of it.
It is a wiser and more prudent decision to work with your lawyer on how to overcome whatever hardships you have already faced in your CPS case. You can hire and fire as many lawyers as you would like, but you are not going to get your child returned to you any faster. Your lawyer has a great deal of knowledge about your case and about how CPS cases work. It is smart to work with her in order to receive feedback about your case.
That is not to say that there is no good reason to fire your attorney. If your attorney is not returning phone calls, does not meet with you prior to court dates or does not explain to you what is happening in your case and what your options are, then you probably should fire him or her. How can you be assured that you are being reasonable when it comes to whether or not to fire your attorney?
What to do before firing an attorney
Switching attorneys or simply firing an attorney during the middle of a CPS case is a drastic step. That does not mean that it is a step that you should not take, however. All I am saying is that before you do so it is advisable that you think about what you are doing. From early on in your case I would recommend that you do the following in order to keep accurate tabs of what has transpired in your case.
Keep documentation of what has happened in your case. If you are telling yourself that your attorney does not return the phone calls you need to be sure that this is actually the case. I have had clients who have told me that I don't return emails, for example. I can go to my computer and pull up the reply emails showing that I responded to their initial email within a few hours of their having sent it. My point is that while it may feel like your attorney is not responding to you quickly enough, it could be that your emotions and the pressures of your case are simply causing you to feel that way. The reality may be that your attorney has responded to you as quickly as he could considering the circumstances.
Next, you should send your attorney your thoughts and concerns in a letter. You may be thinking who actually sends letters in today’s day and age. You don’t actually have to get a stamp and an envelope out if you do not want to go through all the effort. However, sending your attorney an email laying out line by line what your issues are is a good start. You can allow your attorney to respond with an email, but the email exchange should lead to an in-person conversation sooner rather than later. Air your grievances with your attorney. You may be surprised (or not surprised) to learn that your attorney has some grievances to air with you as well.
In the event that your attorney has been appointed to represent you by the judge, you should take steps to make the judge aware of their failure to respond to emails or phone messages. Just because you are not paying the attorney does not mean that he or she does not owe you the same level of representation that he or she would provide to a paying client. If you are concerned about an isolated incident, I would not recommend bringing this to the attention of the judge. However, if there is a prolonged history of misrepresentation occurring I would absolutely make this known to the judge.
Keep in mind that a judge will very rarely assign a new attorney to represent you unless you can prove what you are saying is accurate. Meaning, the documentation that I have recommended you begin, the lack of response to important emails, etc. are things you should have ready to show a judge if you assert that your attorney is not representing you to the fullest of their abilities.
What happens if your interests begin to diverge from those of your spouse?
As it happens, your attorney may be initially appointed to represent you and your spouse in a CPS case but due to unforeseen developments in your case, your interests may no longer be aligned.
For example, a CPS investigation may be related to abuse of your child that both you and your spouse deny at the outset of the case. However, as more and more information becomes available it may become clear that your spouse did abuse your child without your having known about it previously. In a case like this, your interests will not be the same as your spouse's and vice versa. What can be done in this situation when you and he have the same attorney?
If you believe that the above scenario sounds similar to something that is developing with your family it is best to say something as soon as you realize what is happening. You can and should address the situation directly with your attorney. He or she may need to address it then with the judge and with the attorney from CPS. Ultimately it is the judge’s decision to make whether or not you and your spouse require separate counsels.
You should above all else feel confident that you are being competently represented in your CPS case. If you believe that your best interests are not the same as your spouse’s do not wait until the end of your case to speak up. Do so early and often and make sure that you bring it to the attention of your attorney and the court. The well-being of your child and the future of your relationship with him or her may very well be at stake.
Questions about CPS cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have questions about the material that we covered in our blog post today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to speak to an attorney about your case and to receive honest feedback.
Our staff and attorneys take a great deal of pride in being able to work with and on behalf of people in our community just like you. To learn more about your case and to receive information that can help you and your family please contact us today
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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.