Dallas Child Welfare Lawyers
Protecting the Best Interests of You and Your Child
If child protective services (CPS) find parents to be unfit to care for their child for reasons such as abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain legal counsel right away. Although the courts find the child’s best interests to be remaining in the custody of their parents, sometimes, circumstances call for the child to be removed from their home.
Before such drastic measures are taken, however, the parent will be called to court so a judge can determine whether or not the child should stay in the home or be removed. This can be an overwhelming and unnerving situation for both the child and their parents, but as a parent, you should know of your important legal rights during this process. These rights generally include:
- The right to an attorney
- The right to notice
- The right to ask questions
- The right to a hearing
- The right to actively plan for your case
Among the most important rights you should remember is your right to a lawyer. This is because a skilled child welfare attorney can help protect your parental rights, strategize the best course of action, and work proactively to help minimize the impacts and risks of your case. That said, our Dallas child welfare attorneys are your trusted source of advocacy, resources, and powerhouse representation from start to finish. We are compassionate to your sensitive situation and will stand up for what you and your child deserve, leaving no stone unturned.
To schedule your consultation, contact us online or at (214) 758-8681!
Court Process for Child Welfare Cases
The court process can be very confusing and intimidating. Most parents going through the child welfare court process are first-timers who have little clue on what to expect. To help alleviate these ambiguities and ensuing frustrations, we explain the general court hearing process for child welfare cases below:
Court order: Once a petition has been filed, a court order may be issued to investigate suspected or reported abuse or neglect, although, a court order may not be issued in all jurisdictions.
Emergency protection order: If authorities find that the child is unsafe after conducting the investigation, the court will file an emergency protection order to temporarily remove the child from their home.
Preliminary hearing: At this hearing, the investigator will present evidence of the reported abuse or neglect. The parents can also present their own evidence to challenge the petition. From there, the judge will determine whether the child will stay or return home until the trial, or whether the child will stay in a temporary out-of-home placement with their relatives or a foster family.
Fact-finding hearing: This is a trial to determine whether there is enough evidence to determine whether abuse or neglect occurred. The judge may even dismiss the case if there is a lack of evidence.
Dispositional hearing: At this hearing, a judge will determine whether the child can remain at home, and if not, where they will live. If the child cannot remain at home, they may be placed in the agency’s custody before staying with relatives or in foster care. The judge will also determine a visitation plan for the parents.
Review hearings: At least every 6 months, a review hearing will be held to evaluate the case plan progress and decide whether or not the child can return home safely.
Permanency hearing: after 12 to 18 months, the court will determine the child’s permanent living situation, which could be reunification with the parents, guardianship, permanent placement with a relative, or termination of parental rights and adoption.
Termination of parental rights (TPR): After about 12 to 24 months, parental rights may be terminated due to specific conduct or failure to meet case plan goals. Parents may also choose to voluntarily give up their parental rights, whereby the child will be placed for adoption. The TPR hearing may happen sooner than 12 to 24 months if there is serious maltreatment of the child, often called “aggravated circumstances.”
When Can a Parent’s Rights be Terminated Involuntarily?
In child welfare matters, a parent faces the risk of losing their legal parent-child relationship involuntarily if aggravated circumstances are present, as we explained above. With this in mind, involuntary termination of parental rights occurs when specific instances put the child’s safety at risk. The most common legal grounds for determining parental unfitness and whether a parent’s rights should be involuntarily terminated include:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
- Abandonment of the child
- Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent(s)
- Long-term alcohol or drug-induced incapacity of the parent(s)
- Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
Before the state of Texas terminates a parent’s rights involuntarily, the court will make reasonable efforts to help preserve the family and resolve the issues at hand, such as by mandating parenting classes, rehabilitation, or family therapy. However, the state will not make reasonable accommodations to resolve family issues under the following circumstances:
- The child is a victim of abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, or sexual abuse
- The parent murdered another of his or her children
- The parent committed a felony assault that resulted in serious injury to one of his or her children
- The parent’s rights to the child’s sibling were terminated involuntarily
If any of the above factors apply to your situation, it is imperative to hire a child welfare lawyer right away so they can fight to maintain your parental rights. With so much at stake, you can have some peace of mind knowing that DebnamRust PC is in your corner.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
If the court finds that adoption is necessary for the child, then the parents will voluntarily terminate their parental rights to relinquish their legal parent-child relationship in order to place the child for adoption. This process requires birth mothers to legally consent to the voluntary termination and birth fathers must legally establish paternity before getting the right to consent or contest the adoption.
However, parents may not have the right to consent to the termination if they have abandoned their child, failed to support or establish a relationship with the child, committed certain crimes against the child or the other parent, or have not established paternity. If any of these circumstances are involved, a parent’s rights may be involuntarily terminated, which we described above.
Protect Your Parental Rights with DebnamRust PC
Child welfare cases can be burdensome and demanding. The thought of losing your parental rights and having your child live elsewhere is overwhelming, but rest assured that our responsive, reliable, and strategic lawyers are here to help. When you put our Dallas child welfare attorneys on your team, you will get the support and guidance you need to navigate these “uncharted waters” with confidence and ease.
We will work to protect the best interests of you and your child every step of the way. Contact us at (214) 758-8681 to get started!