Having just wrapped up a lengthy series on the Michigan Central Registry, which is a subject of ongoing debate with people who believe very strongly on both sides of the fence, the next logical stop would be CPS petitions. So moving forward we will be looking at what the court process entails for families involved in CPS cases.
If you recall from the previous article, the accused parent or caregiver is called the Respondent, while the child involved is represented by a Lawyer-Guardian ad-litem who is assigned by the court. What happens with the court is dependent upon whether or not the CPS petition requested to remove your children from your care or not.
If CPS has not petitioned the court to remove your children, the Judge may choose to conduct a ‘preliminary inquiry.’ This is an informal review that provides the Judge (or the referee) an opportunity to decide what action should be taken. At this point, the petition can be dismissed if the Judge believes that the accusations are groundless, or the Judge can decide to take other actions, like referring the family or parents for specific services.
However, if the Judge believes that there is enough evidence to support the claims of abuse or neglect made by CPS, the Judge can authorize the petition. If this happens, and the Judge authorizes CPS’s petition against you, you have the right to have a trial where you will be able to defend yourself against the allegations. The law requires that, if you choose to go to trial, it must happen within six months.
If, however, the original petition does include a request that your children be removed from your home and placed into protective custody, or if your children have already been removed by CPS, a preliminary hearing will be held. This is a formal review of the petition, where the Judge reviews the evidence and decides whether or not to authorize the filing of the petition.
In order to authorize the petition, the Judge must decide if there is probable cause. This means that one or more of the allegations against you are believed by the Judge to be true. In these cases, Michigan’s evidentiary rules do not apply. In most cases the only testimony provided is given by the CPS worker who filed the petition against you. As you can expect, they will say what is necessary to get the petition filed by the court.
This is where an excellent attorney with years of experience comes in. If you are going to have a shot at defeating the petition early, you will need skilled legal representation. Your attorney, assuming that you got a good one, will fight on your behalf to ensure that you are not railroaded by CPS. If the Judge doesn’t authorize the petition, the child must be released back into their parent’s custody.
Join us next time as we look at what happens next, in the event that the Judge chooses to authorize the petition and the case goes to trial. Until then, if you are facing a CPS petition and are at risk of having your children removed from your care, call us immediately at 517-886-1000. We have years of experience fighting CPS and are well acquainted with their fear tactics and bullying methods. Don’t wait and hope for a good outcome – you need to take decisive action, and we can help you do that!