Time Limits in Texas CPS Cases
This is a guest blog post written by Angela Dockrey Crawford. Angela has extensive experience working on CPS cases. Due to their nature, CPS Cases can often overlap with criminal cases. Angela is a family law and CPS attorney practicing in Williamson, Travis and surrounding counties. Her website can be found at: www.dockreylaw.com
Time Limits in a CPS Case
Unlike Texas criminal cases, where months can pass before you are even indicted, Texas CPS cases move very quickly. If a social worker finds that a child is in danger, they can remove the child immediately and get a court order authorizing it after the fact. If your child is taken into custody, you will have what is called a Full Adversary Hearing set within two weeks! No exceptions!
The other important deadline to keep in mind is that CPS cases in Texas must be finished within ONE YEAR from the date they began. Extensions are rarely granted.
What does this mean?
It means that if you have about 6-9 months to correct the conditions that caused your child to be removed. If the state deems it is not safe to return your child to you by then, the Court will schedule a jury trial to terminate your parental rights.
Why so cruel? This is the reasoning: Imagine you are arrested on a drug charge and CPS puts your one-year-old child into foster care. You spend six months in jail, and then make a deal with the DA to go straight into rehab when you get out. You are in rehab for three months, but once you get out you don’t have a job or a place to live. You run into your old crowd and relapse. Say you eventually do get sober, find a job, make ends meet and rent an apartment. You are now ready for your child to come home, but three years have passed.
During those three years, you struggled, and you had legitimate reasons why you could not care for your child. But what are three years in the life of a child? Your baby has grown into a child who is now in preschool. He can talk and tie his shoes, and he calls his foster parents mom and dad. He barely remembers who you are. It is extremely traumatic for him to be removed from the only life he can remember. The one-year time limit is to protect your child from this trauma, and the court will obey that deadline to the letter, even if you are trying your best.
How to get started with a CPS attorney to represent you?
CPS is a very specialized area of law, so your criminal attorney might not know about these time limits! It is essential that you retain an experienced CPS attorney to represent you in your CPS case as soon as you are aware of it. If you cannot afford a CPS attorney, you are entitled to one just like in a criminal case, so ask the Court for an application. If you are in jail, write a letter to the Court requesting an attorney, and one will be appointed for you.
Make sure your criminal attorney is aware of the deadlines in your CPS case, and ask him or her to take the deadlines into account when advising you on your criminal case. You can even ask your criminal attorney and CPS attorney to speak so that everyone is on the same page. Help is available so don’t try to navigate the system alone!