Is CPS threatening to take away your parental rights? For most parents, there is nothing more ominous than this threat. Parents facing potential Termination of Parental Rights need to know several very important facts about how their rights can be adversely affected under current Michigan law.
Criminal Law and Neglect/Abuse
Law Can Affect Each Other
Many allegations that are serious enough to cause the government to try and terminate parental rights could also lead to criminal charges. A parent facing a Termination Petition for alleged child abuse, sexual abuse, or even educational abuse could be prosecuted criminally for those same allegations. The consequence could be jail or prison. Sometimes, prosecutors take a “wait and see” attitude, meaning that they let the Neglect/Abuse case proceed before they decide whether to bring criminal charges.
in a Neglect/Abuse Case
A Neglect/Abuse case is a civil proceeding and not a criminal proceeding. Therefore, the constitutional rights that you may be familiar with (such as Miranda rights) don’t apply. A CPS investigator can’t arrest or detain you, and does not need to advise you of any rights. Nonetheless, anything and everything you tell them is likely to be admissible in a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, you can never be forced to testify. This is not true in a Neglect/Abuse trial. The prosecutor will often call the parent as the first witness. This sometimes has the effect of forcing the parent to assert his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Parental silence can have a chilling affect on the outcome of a case and must be evaluated carefully by a skilled trial attorney.
The Passage of Time Can Work
Against You in a Neglect/Abuse Case
Many Michigan parents find themselves caught in a trap brought about by poor decisions made early in their case. It is common for many attorneys to advise against fighting a petition that may be defensible. The theory is to admit jurisdiction and enter into services provided by DHS. Services of various kinds are offered to the parents, presumably to help reunify the family. Unfortunately, Michigan law has time constraints on how long a case should stay open. The family can only be reunified if the conditions that led to the court taking jurisdiction have been remedied. Sometimes the caseworker for DHS does not really put forth a service plan or Parent Agency Agreement designed to accomplish the goal of reunification. Courts grow impatient and consider termination of parental rights because the case is not moving fast enough toward reunification.
Know Your Rights – Speak with an Experienced CPS Lawyer
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Termination Always Remains an
Issue Until the Case is Closed
Many parents give jurisdiction to the Court in exchange for the promise that the government will remove the request for immediate termination of parental rights. While this may sometimes be advisable, it is important to know that termination is never really “off the table.” If things don’t go well, or sometimes even if they do, DHS, the prosecutor, the Guardian Ad Litem, or even another parent can file a Termination Petition, the result of which may be that a non-jury termination trial will be conducted. Because of this reality, parents need to carefully assess their situation with the help of a qualified lawyer before making the decision to agree to the court’s jurisdiction over their child.
You Have No Right to a Jury Trial on the
Issue of Termination of Parental Rights
On this point Michigan law is very clear. It is always a judge and never a jury that decides the issue of termination. If your case has been open for sometime, efforts may be made to undermine your progress in preparation for an eventual termination hearing. DHS reports to the court and continuously repeats allegations about what seem to be minor issues. This has the effect of creating a major emphasis on what should be minor points. By the time your case gets to a termination hearing, an incredible amount of negative information may have been delivered to the court over the course of many months or perhaps years. This can make it difficult for a parent to convince the court that it is not in the best interest of the child to terminate. It is therefore necessary that you be well represented every time information about you is provided to the court.
Your Past is Always Relevant
Two early cases that guide Michigan law are In re Dietrich, and In re LeFlure. Generally, these cases establish the concept that evidence of how a parent treats one child is always admissible evidence as to how a parent is likely to treat another child. This concept must be understood by any parent trying to make the right decision in an Abuse/Neglect case.
Consider the example of a parent who has only one child and is facing termination of parental rights because of an unexplained but serious set of fractures in an infant. DHS and the prosecutor will likely take this case very seriously and attempt to terminate your parental rights. If they are successful, you may find yourself facing termination again in the future when you have another child, even though that child is not injured.
Consider also the example of a parent who has several children, but only one of them has an injury or is alleged to have been abused. Nonetheless, the court could terminate parental rights based upon the evidence of how one child in the home was allegedly abused.
In light of this, you must consider your future carefully when making decisions in your case. If you are not well represented now, your next attorney may have greater difficulty helping you. Likewise, you must consider your past contacts with governmental authorities such as police and CPS workers since that information may be used in a current case. Finally, you must consider the implications to your entire family. A case involving principally one child may turn out to jeopardize your entire family.
Know Your Rights – Speak with an Experienced CPS Lawyer
1-866-766-5245 | Email Us
Termination is a total legal
severance of your connection to your child
Under Michigan Law, termination of parental rights puts you in the same position that you would be in if you had never been the parent, with one significant exception: You may still have to pay child support. If terminated, you no longer have the right to the companionship, care, custody, and management of your child. Which both Michigan and Federal law recognize. Your child also may suffer because in many instances the child is cut off from inheriting from your estate. Obviously, and most significantly, both you and your child will suffer from the loss of the relationship. Children are often left with significant psychological issues related to termination of parental rights. Deep-seated feelings of resentment and abandonment are common. When a child loses all connection to a parent because of an allegation made by another child, the sibling relationship may suffer, as well. There are no winners when parental rights are terminated. Both parent and child are left considerably harmed by the process.
You Need a Parent Advocate
In the name of “Child Protection,” our society has significantly eroded parental rights. The Department of Human Services and CPS personnel are more than willing to second guess parents’ decisions and question parents’ motives. In many instances, parents are prejudged and subjected to unfair questioning by workers who already have their minds made up. Medical staff are typically more than willing to assist the government in building a case against a parent once CPS is involved. Many attorneys will shy away from an aggressive CPS worker. Once a case commences, a parent accused of abuse or neglect faces a gauntlet of opponents in the courtroom. At Kronzek & Cronkright, PLLC, our attorneys advocate for parents because we believe in parental rights. We are accustomed to helping parents through difficult cases involving hostile CPS workers and advanced by zealous and overly aggressive prosecutors. Effective representation requires a commitment to the client, an expansive knowledge of the law, a willingness to fight for parents, professional trial skills, and a willingness to fight an often uphill battle. We strive to provide this quality of representation in every case we accept.
If you are afraid of a termination of your parental rights, you need an attorney who continuously fights for parental rights to review your case. We are available 24/7 for an online screening or phone consultation. Call us today at 1-866-766-5245.