Can I Fire my Court-Appointed Attorneys?
If you have been accused of child abuse or neglect in Michigan, and you are financially unable to hire a lawyer, the Family Court will appoint an attorney to defend you. Many times people have questions about this process, and we would like to answer some of those common questions.
Do I have to pay my court-appointed attorney?
No, you do not have to pay for the services of your court-appointed attorney up front. The government initially pays for court-appointed attorneys. However, Michigan courts often order parents to re-pay the court for any money paid to court-appointed lawyers.
What if I don’t want a court-appointed attorney?
You are not required to settle for a court-appointed lawyer. While you may represent yourself, we do not recommend it. Experienced Children’s Protective Services defense attorneys understand the process involved in a Michigan CPS case. At Kronzek & Cronkright, many of the clients we defend in CPS cases decide not to go with their court-appointed attorney, but hire us, instead. Other clients come to us after they see that the court-appointed attorney is not aggressively handling their abuse / neglect case to protect their family. You always have the right to switch attorneys and hire a more skilled lawyer to help you.
At what point in the case can I have a court-appointed attorney?
You are entitled to have a court-appointed attorney at all stages of a Michigan CPS case. This court-appointed attorney has the right to appear at all the hearings in the case. Typically, once you have been served with the petition (CPS complaint) against you, the court will determine whether you are financially able to pay for a lawyer. If the court determines you are not able to do so, the court will assign you a court-appointed attorney. If you tell the court you do not want to have a court-appointed attorney, the court must inform you that you may have one at a later stage of the CPS case if you would like. If your parental rights are terminated, you have the right to a court-appointed attorney to appeal the decision. The court must inform you of this right.
Is there any time when I don’t have a right to a court-appointed attorney?
Besides having the court determine that you are financially able to hire your own attorney, there is one circumstance where you are not entitled to your own court-appointed attorney. This is when you are a parent who is voluntarily agreeing to give up your parental rights to your child. In that case, you must hire your own lawyer if you want one.
What happens if the court-appointed attorney no longer wants to work with me?
In order for your court-appointed attorney to stop working with you, they need permission from the court to withdraw. The court will not grant them this permission if doing so would unfairly prejudice your case. However, a court will be more likely to allow a court-appointed attorney to withdraw if there is another court-appointed attorney who is very familiar with your case and willing to take over. Of course you always have the right to hire an attorney of your own choosing. This is common.
What if I don’t think my court-appointed attorney did a good job of representing me?
If you feel your court-appointed attorney did a poor job representing you in a Michigan abuse / neglect petition case, it is possible that you have a claim for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel against them. To win this claim, you must be able to prove that your court-appointed attorney’s performance was worse than could be reasonably expected, and that the case would have had a different outcome if it weren’t for that poor performance. If you can prove these things, you could be granted the ability to start the case over with a new attorney. However, courts are very reluctant to grant these claims. You should never count on an Ineffective Assistance of Counsel claim.
Can I fire my court-appointed attorney?
As long as you are not a minor, you may fire your court-appointed attorney at any point in your Children’s Protective Services case. Unless there is a good reason to do so, the court will probably not allow you to have another court-appointed attorney. That means you will either be representing yourself, which we do not recommend, or you will have to hire your own attorney to represent you. At Kronzek & Cronkright, many of our clients in CPS cases come to us after they’ve fired their court-appointed attorney. If you do decide to hire us, it is best to decide that as early as possible in the case. We will handle the firing of your lawyer on your behalf. The more time we have to prepare your defense, the better off you will be. Call us at 1-(866)-766-5245 to discuss your case.