In the previous installment in this series on Michigan’s Central Registry, also known as the Abuse and Neglect Registry, we have been discussing the court process for parents who are accused of abuse or neglect. Previously we looked at the first steps in the process, where the Judge may choose to conduct a preliminary inquiry, and what happens at a preliminary hearing. Moving forward, we are going to look at the next step in the process, if the Judge chooses to authorize the petition and the case goes to trial.
In the event that the Judge decides that CPS’s concerns are valid, and that the child in question is at risk, this means that they have decided that there is ‘probable cause.’ In this case, the Judge will authorize CPS to file the petition. In this instance, unless your attorney is able to prove to CPS that their claims are unfounded, or unless you accept a plea agreement, you will be going to trial.
Another factor to consider is that if the Judge decides that there is probable cause, they will need to determine whether or not your child or children are at risk of further abuse or neglect. In some cases, where the abuse or neglect is considered to be only by one parent, the Judge can order that parent to move out of the family’s home and live elsewhere. This allows the children to remain safely in their home with at least one of their parents or caregivers.
In many cases the child is placed in another temporary home to receive care until the case is resolved. Sometimes this temporary home is a relative, and sometimes it is a complete stranger who has been licensed as a foster parent by the state. The determination to place your child in foster care will be made right then, in court, and the CPS worker present will make a recommendation to the court for where they believe your child should be placed.
If you disagree with the placement that CPS proposes, you may speak up in court. Remember, unless CPS is seeking to terminate your parental rights, the goal is to ultimately reunite you and your children. For this reason, you have a right to tell the Judge if you disagree with the proposed placement. Bear in mind, however, that the final decision is made by the court. In addition, CPS will recommend services, like substance abuse counseling and parenting classes, that they believe will help your family work towards reunification.
If you choose not to accept a plea, with regard to the accusations, the next step in the process is a trial. If the Judge has ordered that your child remain in your care, or was placed in the care of their other parent, the law requires that the trial happen within six months of the petition being filed. If, however, your child was placed with a relative or other foster care parent, the trial must take place within 63 days of the petition being filed.
Join us next time, as we look at what the trial entails, and what the court requires from both you and CPS in order to make a determination about the custody of your child. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of abuse or neglect by CPS, contact our family law offices immediately. Our experienced defense attorneys have spent decades defending the families of mid-Michigan against the invasive and overzealous tactics of CPS. We have helped keep many families together, and have protected countless accused parents from false accusations. We can help you too!