Your lawyer is going to be the best resource that you have during your Child Protective Services (CPS) case to answer your questions and generally guide you throughout your case. It is likely that you will not have a personal bond with your attorney. He or she may have come recommended to you by a friend. He or she may be the closest family law attorney to your home. Either way, you need to develop a level of trust with your attorney- and you need to do it quickly.
How can you build a level of trust with a person that you barely know beyond a short interview where you told the lawyer the basic information about your case? For starters, you need to spend your initial meeting with the lawyer by listening to the attorney as much as you talk to the attorney. Ask him or her questions. Do not spend the entire conversation telling him or her about every last detail of your family history. There will be time for that. Use this conversation as a means to learn as much about the lawyer as he or she is learning about you.
How does the lawyer react to your questions? Does he go into full explanations wherein he provides you with responses based on his experience? Or does he more or less give short, abbreviated answers that are intended to satisfy your curiosity but accomplish no more? Is the lawyer interested in what you have to say or is he slouched over and more interested in his phone when you are speaking? These things matter. Your opinion of the lawyer will depend in large part on how much respect he shows to you. If his body language tells you that he is not interested in talking to you, walk right out the door.
Once you have found a lawyer who is respectful, experienced and trustworthy it is time to begin your case in earnest. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will detail exactly how you should share information with your attorney and the importance of you being honest with him or her- no matter what you are discussing.
How “honest” do you need to be with your CPS attorney?
There are degrees of honesty. You can be completely honest about a subject, like when you've had a few too many drinks at happy hour and the truth just comes out about how you feel about a particular co-worker. You can also be completely honest by telling your mom that school was "fine" when asked how your day was. Neither of them is untruthful.
Your attorney should spend a great deal of time with you discussing very personal subjects. Your family, your kids, your life, your home, and this CPS are all fair game. Expect to be asked questions that do not make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Expect that you will likely wonder why your lawyer needs to know that particular bit of information that was provided to him or her.
This is all a part of proper client representation. You may be embarrassed to answer a certain question. You may want to only disclose the information that makes you look like a great parent or otherwise like a nice person. However, we all have circumstances in our lives that we are less than proud of. This is the information that you need to share with your attorney. The reason for this is because it is this unsavory subject matter that will likely make up the meat and potatoes of the case that CPS is going to proceed with against you.
Your attorney must keep anything that you say to him confidentially. That means that unless you tell your attorney that he can disclose the information that you have told him, he may not. The only exception to this rule is that if you tell him information that details the abuse or neglect of a child (even your own child) he or she must disclose that to CPS.
The bottom line is that you need to be as honest as you can be when you speak to your attorney about your case. The more information that you lawyer can learn from you in your conversations the better off your case will be. Odds are decent that during the life of your case everything you are telling your lawyer up-front will be found out anyway. It is better to have your attorney learn about these facts from you rather than him learning about them from CPS. After all, you are paying your attorney to help you present evidence and guide your case. When the evidence is not favorable to you is when you need the guiding hand of your attorney even more.
Examples of things you should always tell your lawyer about
When it comes to the truth of your CPS case, you need to start off by telling your lawyer about why CPS first investigated you and your family. It may be that it takes some time for your lawyer to request and obtain any of the materials from CPS that they have documented in regard to their investigation of you. Don’t wait a few weeks for your lawyer to get the paperwork from CPS. Provide him with truthful information so that he can help you prepare for the next stages of your case.
Your past CPS history is important. If CPS sees that you are a repeat offender and have had investigations into your behavior with your child or other children on previous occasions when they may not be as lenient or willing to give you time to correct your behavior this time around. Speak to your attorney about past instances where you were investigated even if those investigations did not lead to any findings of abuse or neglect being made against you.
Drug and alcohol abuse is an unfortunate reality among many allegations of abuse or neglect against children. You may believe that you do not have a drinking or illegal drug problem. That may be true, but if those type of substances affected your ability to parent your child and possibly led to an abusive or neglectful situation then you need to be completely honest with your attorney about this. The same can be said about domestic violence or fighting in your home.
Even if you nor your child have a relationship with your child’s other parent you need to let your attorney know about their status and location, to the best of your knowledge. Being able to contact that person is important because he or she may be able to tell your attorney information that is both helpful and not obtainable from any other source. CPS will be trying to contact the other parent to your child anyways, so you may as well let your attorney know about their information at the beginning of your case. Keep in mind that if CPS is able to have your child removed from your home, their other parent will likely be the first option that CPS looks to as far as placing your child on a temporary basis. If the other parent is trustworthy and offers a safe environment then it is probable that you would prefer that your child resides with a parent rather than a foster family.
Finally, details about your daily life and your activities need to be shared with your attorney. For instance, if you work then your attorney needs to know your schedule. The reason for this is because CPS will be contacting your attorney to speak to you about your case from the moment that you hire an attorney. IF CPS is trying to set up a conference or mediation session then your attorney cannot do so without first knowing your work schedule.
If you are living with another person then your attorney needs to know this. He or she likely will never come to your house so do not expect your attorney to "just know" that you have a roommate. It is especially important that your attorney knows about your living situation if your roommate or family member is a central figure in the abuse or neglect allegations being made against you.
Other items that you need to discuss with your CPS attorney
Your attorney needs to know what your goals are for your case so that he can help you achieve those goals. Assuming that your attorney knows what, you want to accomplish is not a smart path to go down. If you want your child returned to your home but you also want to begin seeking treatment for an addiction to alcohol that needs to be the focus of your attorney’s efforts. Those goals are not mutually exclusive, but they may not occur to your attorney on his own. Talk to him about what you want to accomplish in the CPS case.
If a judge orders your child to be removed from your home even on a temporary basis then you need to share with your attorney whether or not there is a place that your child can stay with friends or family. I’m sure you would prefer to have your child stay with a family member rather than with a foster family. This does not happen magically, however. CPS must first be made aware of these homes. Your attorney can help you to determine which family member is most suitable for hosting your child.
Getting back to an example that we discussed in the opening paragraph of this section of today’s blog post, you need to make sure your attorney is aware of whatever supportive programs that you need in order to have your child returned to your home. Drug/alcohol counseling, anger management, or simply a person to help look for a new job for you, these are the sort of assistive programs that an attorney can help you with.
Most notably, your attorney can and should be helping you manage your expectations in regard to what can be a twelve month- or longer- process. CPS cases can be wrapped up in a short amount of time but it is possible that yours will not be one of them. Talk to your attorney about the steps in your case if you are unclear about what is upcoming. Whether or not you will be able to see your child during the case is a question that I receive quite often. Your attorney can help you obtain visitation with your child during the CPS case.
Finally, it is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about your case. That means that if your attorney is not taking the initiative to tell you about these issues then you need to ask him or her. At the end of your case, it will be your life, not your attorney's, who benefits the most by becoming actively involved in your CPS case. Treat your case like a second (or third) job by staying involved and knowledgeable about the steps that you need to take in order to have your child returned to your home.
The responsibilities of your attorney will be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post
Today we discussed mainly those subjects that you need to discuss with your attorney. In tomorrow’s blog post we will detail what your attorney’s responsibilities are during a CPS case.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the subject matter that we discussed today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your case from an experienced CPS attorney. We appreciate your interest in today’s blog post topic and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow.
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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.