Whether or not you need to hire an attorney before beginning a, Child Protective Services case is one of the most important questions that you can ask yourself. Undoubtedly you will have many questions surrounding your CPS case because it is unlikely that you have much experience with one. When we talk about child custody or divorce cases, I always assume that you, as the reader have some degree of knowledge about these kinds of cases both because we write about them frequently on this blog but also because you likely know someone who has been involved in a case such as these or you have been involved in a prior divorce or child custody case. On the other hand, CPS cases are not nearest common, and therefore most people enter into a case with less knowledge as a result.
Typically, when we're talking about things that we have concern over in our lives, those concerns can be directly tied to a lack of knowledge. Just think about our response to this pandemic. In March and April, people knew much less about the virus than we know now, and we're much less to live in a pandemic. As a result, we saw school shut down immediately, and businesses take extreme precautions to protect their employees and customers. Just generally people Being less mobile than they are now.
Flash forward to today, and not only do most of us have a greater level of comfort in living during a pandemic, but we also see people being more comfortable going out and about in leading fairly normal lives. The major reason for this is that we know what the virus can do and what it can't do. Instead of operating mainly off fear, we now operate off of our knowledge of what we have experienced as something we can use to predict where we can go from here. This is not being foolhardy or risky. It is simply taking nine and almost 10 months of experience with the virus and applying it to our daily lives.
The trouble with a CPS case is that you won't get 10 months to prepare once you find out that your family is in the middle of an investigation. You will have relatively little time to figure out how to conduct yourself and what path your case should take. One of the things that we talk about a great deal in this blog post is having a community and group of people who can help guide you in difficult times. It would be most preferable for you to have people in your corner who are not only there for you from an emotional and relational perspective but also a practical perspective. Put, if you don't know what you're doing with the CPS case, you need to find somebody who does.
The obvious choice for you, if you want help during a CPS case, is to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. Many attorneys will tell you that they have experienced as a lawyer in many law areas but very few foci and specialize in family law. Even fewer still have the sort of expertise in Child Protective Services cases that can assist you with what you are going through Currently. I want to spend some time discussing how to begin a conversation with an attorney so that you will become knowledgeable about that lawyer and whether or not he or she has what it takes to represent you and your family.
Interviewing a potential CPS attorney
Have you ever been involved in a legal case before? That is the question you need to ask yourself before pressing forward into your CPS case. Do you know the first thing about a civil case? Do you know the civil cases? How confident are you in being able to outwit and outmaneuver Child Protective Services, their experienced attorneys, and a judge who may be skeptical of you and your motives? This is not to say that the scales of justice will be tipped against you, but almost certainly, the scales of experience will be tipped against you. There is no reason to expect that you would have anything close to the degree of requisite knowledge to represent yourself in a CPS case adequately.
That's not to say you are intelligent or entirely capable of speaking on your behalf. However, what it is to say is that you have other interests in your life, including providing for your family, working a day job that does not involve a CPS case in many other pursuits that do not lend themselves to you having a lot of free time. As a result, there is no way that I can envision an average person representing themselves in a CPS case. Not only would you have to work hard to learn the necessary skills, but you would also need the time to do so. With that said, it should become obvious to you that you at least need to interview attorneys to represent you in a case.
How can you do that? Don't attorneys charge for consultations and meetings? Attorneys difficult to work with and dishonest to a certain extent? We've all heard people toss around opinions regarding attorneys, and to some extent, some of these stereotypes may be true. Some attorneys do charge a lot of money to have you be represented in court. Some attorneys are inconsiderate when it comes to your time. However, I believe the vast majority of attorneys seek to represent their clients to the greatest extent possible and are very fair in a charge's fees. Most attorneys that I know genuinely do what they believe is best for their clients. If you have heard rumors or stereotypes about attorneys, I would generally be speaking recommend you talk to a lawyer before becoming convinced that it is not in the cards for you to be represented.
Attorneys will play a role in your CPS case if the investigation goes beyond a week or two. If CPS becomes involved in your family's life, you will almost assuredly contact attorneys. However, these attorneys will likely not be on your side, and they will be representing other parties in your case. In a full-fledged CPS case, your child, CPS, and other parties to the case may also have attorneys representing them. You do not want to be left the only party without an attorney. Fortunately for you, there are options to choose from as far as hiring a lawyer.
You need to speak to an interview with an attorney before hiring him or her. I have taken phone calls at this office from people who have wanted to pay us a retainer immediately to have us represent him or her in a particular family law case. It's not to say that we aren't flattered to have that person's confidence. Still, I will always recommend to this person that we at least have a conversation about their circumstances to determine whether our office and he or she who was on the phone with me is a good match for a team moving forward. In the same way, you should talk to an attorney and determine whether you are a good fit.
I'm not saying that you have to fall in love with the attorney work feel like you want to adopt him or her into your family. I am saying that the attorney should walk you through a CPS case and provide you with some detail about how the process works and how he or she would stand to benefit in your case. You can ask the attorney you are speaking with how they will benefit you and your family. If he or she cannot tell you the specific way they will help you and your family, you probably need to move on and speak to a different lawyer.
Another important aspect of this discussion is that you and your attorney need to talk about your goals for the case. Since you probably have little knowledge of CPS cases, the goals you have for your case may be completely out of line with reality. As in, your goals may be so far fetched that even the best outcome in your case would not be able to allow a result like you are envisioning. By the same token, your goals may be so conservative that even the worst outcome in the world would not line up with those goals. Either way, you need to find out where your case is likely headed so that you can prepare emotionally and financially for the case's outcome.
I would also speak to the attorney about their fees and an estimated cost for their representation. Family law attorneys typically billed by the hour and require an upfront retainer fee to be paid to him or her. This means that you will pay a down payment to the attorney to secure his or her time on your case. Once that retainer is exhausted by their office working on your case, an hourly fee will be charged to you with time for the rest of your case. It can be tough to estimate how much representation will cost you, but at least you can have a better idea of how the attorney charges in the structure that those payments will need to come in from you.
At this point, you should be a lot more comfortable with the idea of hiring an attorney. Speaking to lawyers, learning what they do and what they do not do, how much each will charge you, what the course of your case will look like and how the lawyer will help you should cause you to feel a little more comfortable with the idea of becoming involved with a legal case. Meeting with multiple attorneys is like meeting with multiple doctors to get a second, third, and fourth opinion on a medical condition that you are suffering from.
Suffice it to say, and I strongly believe that you need an attorney for your CPS case. If you are unable to afford an attorney, then you can be provided with one by the court, especially when your parental rights are at risk of being terminated concerning the CPS investigation. Even before your case makes it to court, it is critical to have an attorney representing you, however. Keep in mind that movies and television shows involving lawyers surround the courtroom. In reality, most of a CPS case (the vast majority, actually) involves seemingly mundane and routine interactions between yourself and CPS.
How having an attorney benefits you outside of the courtroom?
I can completely understand if you believe that it is worthwhile to have an attorney in a courtroom, but outside of court, it may not make much difference. After all, you've been able to function just fine up to this point, never having had spoken to an attorney previously. Now that you are involved in a CPS case, why would that change? Well, the reality is that once a CPS case begins, you are no longer living based on your schedule. Rather, your ability to proceed through the case, spend time with your child, and eventually reunite permanently with your child depends on your willingness and ability to understand the case process and make decisions for yourself along the way.
In a CPS case, you will be expected to participate in the process as much as possible. This means that if you want your case to end, you will need to fulfill the duties set forth by CPS. This oftentimes means being able to come up with a safety plan for your family, which you can follow. This means making necessary changes in your life that may be placing your child at risk of harm in ways you wouldn't have even considered as dangerous before. All of this is done with a CPS caseworker or investigator whose time is limited to be able to spend on your case.
I'll put it to you this way: if you have ever had to work with the government before then, you probably have come to learn that they are not the most responsive group in the world. It can sometimes take repeated phone calls, long waits in line, and a great deal of frustration to get something done in your life. Now imagine how you will feel when your relationship with your child hangs in the balance. It can be very frustrating to work with CPS not because the people are unpleasant, but because the circumstances are stressful, and you may not be able to communicate well with the parties to your case.
Your attorney will be your first line of defense against things happening in your case that you do not understanding. Your attorney will be your first line of defense against your court orders, not reflecting the realities of your family life. Your attorney will be the first line of defense against a CPS caseworker telling the judge something that may not be necessarily accurate. Finally, your attorney will be your first line of defense against your not meeting all the deadlines and requirements of your family-based service plan or safety plan.
Ultimately, the CPS case you are involved in is your responsibility. You can hire an attorney to help you guide your case to a certain extent, but the decision-making that goes into it will be yours. You can either go into your case with fear and anxiety due to a lack of knowledge, or you can decide to make a change and let someone help you. Hiring an attorney can go a long way towards ensuring your child's safe return to your home. If your child is still in your home, hiring an attorney can help you to put an end to your case as quickly as possible. Ultimately, you decide to make, but there are contentious, passionate, and diligent attorneys who can help you and your family during this difficult time.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys represent clients in CPS cases throughout southeast Texas and would be honored to speak to you about doing the same for you and your family. Free of charge consultations are available with our attorneys six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We are here to serve our community, and we take a great deal of pride in the opportunity to do so.