Being faced with an abuse or neglect charge can be stressful, and for many parents or guardians, very confusing. If CPS is called to your home to investigate an abuse or neglect allegation and a case is opened against you, it is important to understand how the system works in order to better prepare for your case. We have prepared this guide to familiarize you with the hearings involved in a CPS case.
Preliminary Protective Custody Hearing (PPCH)
This is the first hearing in a CPS case. If your children have been removed and/or if CPS believes your children are in need of protection, a hearing will be held within 72 hours. You will likely be notified of the hearing by the CPS investigator calling you, leaving a notice on your door or sending you a letter in the mail. It is important that you attend this hearing because if you do not attend CPS automatically wins.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT YOU AT THIS HEARING. If you have an attorney, the attorney should be at the PPCH. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you after the hearing. Your children will also be appointed an attorney referred to as a CAP.
During the hearing you may be asked questions by the judge about events leading up to CPS becoming involved. If you do not have a lawyer, it is important to say very little about the events or even to decline to answer any questions without a lawyer. CPS will likely use any statements you make at this hearing to keep your children in the system.
Plea Hearing and Confirmation of Counsel (PH/COC)
If the Court believes your children need protection, the case will proceed to a plea hearing. If you do not have an attorney and cannot afford an attorney, the Court will appoint a lawyer to you at the PPCH and your lawyer will appear with you at the plea hearing to confirm on the record that they will represent you.
Again, YOU MUST ATTEND THIS HEARING. If you do not attend the hearing, your court appointed lawyer will not confirm they are representing you. In addition, CPS will proceed on the case against you and it is likely CPS will win if you are not at the PH hearing to enter your plea.
Prior to the plea hearing, CPS will file a petition. The petition will contain all of the allegations CPS is making against you and will explain why CPS believes your children need protection. Review the petition carefully. Write down any questions and any items that you do not agree with in the petition and bring this list with you to the plea hearing.
At the time of the plea hearing, go over the list with your attorney. The plea hearing is intended to establish whether or not you admit to the charges of abuse or neglect. The attorney may be able to get some or all of the language in the petition removed or changed.
Once you are before the judge you may admit the allegations stated in the petition, deny the allegations or plead no contest to the allegations. The State may also dismiss the petition at which time your case will be over.
Adjudicatory Hearing (AH)
If you deny the allegations in the petition, the Court will schedule an AH. This hearing is like a trial. CPS will present evidence and testimony to the judge to support their case. You will have the chance to also present evidence and testimony to the judge. YOU MUST ATTEND THIS HEARING.
Once everyone has presented their side of the story, the judge will determine whether or not CPS has provided enough evidence to support the allegations in the petition. If so, your case will proceed to R&D. If the judge feels CPS has not shown the need for protection, the case will be dismissed.
Review and Dispositional Hearing (R&D)
If you admitted to the allegations in the petition or pled no contest OR if the Court upheld the petition after an AH, the Court will schedule the case for R&D. At the R&D hearing, your caseworker will provide the Court with a report and a case plan. You should be provided with these documents before the R&D hearing. Review these documents carefully and take notes about any questions or concerns you have with the language in the report. The case plan is your “roadmap” for how to get your children back. If there are requirements contained in the case plan that you disagree with, you must bring these items to your lawyer’s attention before the R&D hearing.
At the time of the R&D hearing, the judge will review the case plan and the report and ask for comments from the case worker, your attorney and the CAP. The judge will consider any disputes you have with the case plan and report and may ask the case worker to make changes to the plan. Once the case plan is accepted and approved by the Court, you must complete the requirements in the case plan to get your children home. YOU MUST ATTEND THIS HEARING.
Review Hearings and Permanency Hearings
Once the court has taken wardship over your children, the Court must have a hearing at the six month mark. This hearing is referred to as a review hearing. The purpose of the review hearing is to determine whether you have complied with the requirements of your case plan. If you have met the requirements and CPS feels the home is safe, your children may be returned to you and the case may be closed. If you have not met the requirements of the case plan, the Court will hold a permanency hearing. YOU MUST ATTEND THIS HEARING.
If by the permanency hearing, you still have not complied with the requirements in your case plan, CPS can ask the Court to terminate your parental rights. Termination cases will be discussed in another article.
As you can see, the process is a complex and confusing one. Working with an experienced lawyer is your best chance of cutting the process short and ending CPS involvement in your home.
If you or someone you know has had children removed due to CPS allegations call us today at 702-433-2889 or fill out our on-line form for more information.