From the date that your CPS case is filed, there is a one year limit on how long your case may last. This may seem like a long time to wait for a conclusion to your case when you first consider it. However, if you have been keeping up with our blog the past few days then you can attest to just how many steps are included in this process. You and the court have a lot of things to do before a permanent home can be determined for your child.
The goal of a final hearing (trial) in a Child Protective Services case is to identify a permanent home for your child and to resolve any outstanding issues for the parties to your case. Once the Department of Family and Protective Services has been appointed as the temporary managing conservator of your child it is necessary for the case to be wrapped up within that year. Without a court order stating otherwise, the first Monday after the expiration of one year will see the case dismissed.
Are extensions ever granted in Child Protective Services cases?
The judge in your case will need to have determined that extraordinary circumstances are in play for your case to be extended past the one-year deadline. An extension of up to six months is possible. Keep in mind that this is a long time for your child to be out of your home and in the temporary care of the Department of Family Protective Services. Even if your child is staying with a relative or other person close to your family this is a very long time for your child’s fate to be up in the air.
If the judge keeps your case on their docket, the judge will render an order that will schedule the new date on which the case will be dismissed if a trial has not begun already. It is likely that additional temporary orders will be issued regarding the safety and welfare of your child. Odds are that your child’s circumstances will have changed in the almost one year that he or she has been in the custody of the Department.
What happens if your Child Protective Services case is dismissed?
In most instances, a court will set a case for trial and then set the dismissal date for the case. In the event that an extension is granted by the judge in your case but a trial does not begin before the dismissal date then the court no longer has jurisdiction over you and your child. The lawsuit filed by the Department will be terminated and the case is dismissed without any further action needed from the court.
What does this mean for you and your child? In most situations, you and your child will wind up in the same positions that you were in before the lawsuit was filed. Keep in mind that just because the Department of Family and Protective Services can no longer bring a lawsuit does not mean that any other party to your case (an intervening grandparent, for example) cannot continue on with their own against you.
Likewise, the Department can file a new petition after its original lawsuit is dismissed. However, a current lawsuit cannot be based on factual circumstances that were apparently a year ago. The current situation in your home must be the source of evidence that is necessary to establish that there is a continuing danger posed to your child if he or she returns home with you.
You as the parent to your child must be appointed as the managing conservator of your child unless doing so can be shown to be harmful to the physical health or emotional development of your child. The bottom line is that even if you have multiple prior termination cases to your name, those cases cannot be used against you in your current case. If a trial is not commenced by the dismissal deadline and your case is dismissed, your current circumstances are relevant to whether or not your child can go home with you.
Your child can come home at any point in your case- with conditions
In some circumstances, the Department may allow your child to leave their temporary custody and return home to you. If this occurs, they would need to go before the judge and seek a court order that grants you this right. A monitored return home for your child may be the result of that hearing. The return cannot last more than 180 days, however.
What conditions must be in place for this monitored return home to be granted? A finding must be made by the judge that the court still retains jurisdiction over what is in the best interests of your child. Basically, this means that the court case will proceed until further order of that court. Once this is established, a court order will be rendered that mandates the return of your child to your home and out of the temporary care of the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Next, a transition for your child will occur that will proceed according to a schedule determined by the Department and the Court. That transition will involve your child going from the transitional housing that he or she has been living in for the duration of the case back to your home. Meanwhile, you will be expected to complete whatever remaining requirements are left outstanding in your service plan.
The Department will remain on as the temporary managing conservator of your child. This means that they will be able to monitor the return of your child to your home to ensure that he or she is in a safe environment. An extension of up to six months may be required by you to complete the remaining elements of your service plan.
What happens in the event that the monitored return of your child does not go well?
Before the time that your lawsuit is dismissed or a trial is begun it is determined by the Department that your child must be removed from your home, a new dismissal date will be determined by the court.
What will happen in the final hearing of your case?
At a final hearing (trial) the court has some options at its disposal. The first option would be to enter a final decree of conservatorship that returns your child to your home. The Department will be dismissed from further involvement with your child and you. Another option would be to enter a final decree of conservatorship that gives a relative of your permanent managing conservatorship over your child. This could or could not involve the termination of your parental rights. The other option for the court to choose from would be to enter a final decree of conservatorship that names the Department as the permanent managing conservator of your child. Likewise, this could include the termination of your parental rights in some circumstances.
What does the Department have to prove in a final hearing?
The Department of Family and Protective Services must show that your parental rights should be terminated or that the Department should be appointed the managing conservator of your child. If yours is a termination lawsuit then the Department must convince a judge that there is a clear and convincing reason (evidence) related to at least one ground for termination and that termination of your parental rights is in the best interests of your child.
What are the grounds for parental rights termination in Texas?
To begin with, you need to be provided notice of a lawsuit that has been filed against you that seeks to terminate your parental rights. If you are not personally served in this type of lawsuit then any court that terminates your parent-child relationship may not appoint the Department of Family and Protective Services as the permanent managing conservator of your child. The two exceptions to this rule come into play when the Department can show that they have made a diligent effort to locate you and any relative of yours that was located by the Department has had a reasonable chance to request to be appointed as a managing conservator of your child.
Your parental rights in relation to your child can be terminated against your will
There are a number of circumstances that can act as the basis to have your parental rights related to your child terminated against your will. First of all, if you voluntarily (freely and without duress) left your child alone or in the possession of another person who is not the parent of your child and then expressed a desire not to return your parental rights can be terminated. This is especially true if you remained away from your child for at least three months and did not provide for the adequate support of your child while you were gone.
In addition to the foregoing, there are a few other circumstances that could lead to your parental rights being terminated. The majority of which revolve around abandoning your child, abusing your child, neglecting your child or abandoning the pregnant mother of your child. There are a host of crimes your being convicted for could also be the basis for termination of your parental rights. Capital murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, possession of child pornography and indecency with a child being foremost among them.
What grounds are not viable for basing a termination lawsuit on?
On the other hand, there are specific grounds that the Texas Family Code details cannot be the basis for a petition to terminate your parental rights. Your having homeschooling your child, you're being economically disadvantaged, or declining to immunize your children for reasons related to conscience are three of the more frequently cited reasons.
When would the court determine that you are unable to care for your child?
The inability to care for your child is a reason that the court can specify in order to terminate your parental rights. The usual basis for this inability to care for your child stems from the diagnosis of a mental disability. The judge can order the termination of your parental right in a lawsuit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services if the following conditions are met.
First, you would need to be determined to have a mental or emotional illness that renders you unable to provide for the physical, emotional and mental needs of your child. That illness will need to be found to be likely to continue to render you unable to care for your child’s need until the 18thbirthday of your child. Further, the Department musts have been named as the temporary or sole managing conservator of your child for at least six months before the date of the hearing on termination.
So long as the termination of your parental rights is shown to be in the best interests of your child, then they will be terminated. You will have the benefit of having an attorney ad litem appointed by the judge to represent your interests in a termination lawsuit of this kind.
Interested in learning about what goes into the termination of an alleged biological father’s parental rights? Read our blog tomorrow
We will pick up where we left off today by discussing terminating an alleged biological father’s parental rights in tomorrow’s blog post.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the content of today’s blog post or are seeking more information 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 to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your case.
Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in being able to represent the people of our community. We work in all family courts of southeast Texas and have achieved superior results for our clients in those courtrooms.