Sometimes people find themselves in the very difficult situation where they are accused of child abuse or neglect, but they don’t have the financial means to hire an attorney. In Michigan, if an individual is financially unable to hire an attorney for an abuse or neglect petition in the family court, they don’t have to then defend themselves.
Instead, Michigan offers the individual a court-appointed attorney. People in this situation often have a lot of questions, so below we answer some of the most common questions we hear.
Do I have to pay my court-appointed attorney?
No, you do not have to pay your court-appointed attorney. As stated above, only those in financial need are able to receive a court-appointed attorney, and these people in financial need are initially given a free attorney.
However, oftentimes parents who are given a court-appointed attorney will later have to pay the court back the fees charged by the attorney. In most cases, court-appointed attorneys make much less than other top notch attorneys. Our clients repeatedly tell us that you get what you pay for. Other clients tell us they don’t want an attorney that works for the government.
What if I don’t want a court-appointed attorney?
You don’t have to accept the attorney the court appoints. There is perhaps financial incentive for you to stick with you court-appointed attorney, but when your future and your family’s future are at stake, you really want to get the best, toughest and most experienced attorney you can afford.
Sometime we see clients first try to work with their court-appointed attorney. When or if that doesn’t work out, they come to us at The Kronzek Firm and hire one of our trusted, expert CPS defense attorneys. You always have the option to switch your attorney and hire someone more skilled to help you.
Sometimes things don’t work out with the court-appointed attorney because that attorney is not very invested in the client’s case, or other times because the court-appointed attorney just doesn’t have the experience necessary to be successful in that setting. Whatever your situation, what we will say is that you should never do is try to represent yourself. There is simply too much at risk for you not to bother at least getting a second opinion.
When can I get a court-appointed attorney?
You can have a court-appointed attorney right from the start of your CPS case. However, not everyone can get a court-appointed attorney. First, the court will have to determine whether or not you are financially able to hire an attorney.
If the court decides that you will not be able to hire an attorney on your own, then they will assign you an attorney. At any time, you can tell the court that you don’t want your court-appointed attorney.
The court must tell you that if your parental rights are terminated, you have the right to appeal the case with the help of a court-appointed attorney. It’s easy to see that there is a lot at stake in Michigan’s abuse and neglect cases. We urge you to take them very seriously. Always remember, the right attorney is critical.
Is everyone in financial need given a court-appointed attorney?
Most people who are in financial need are granted a court-appointed attorney; however, there is an important exception. The exception is if you are a parent who has voluntarily given up your parental rights to your child. If this is your case, then if you want a lawyer, you will have to hire your own – even if you do have demonstrated financial need.
Is a court-appointed attorney allowed to drop my case?
Your court-appointed attorney must defend you during your entire case unless either you decide to reject them, or unless the court grants them permission to withdraw. The court will not allow your attorney to withdraw if doing so will unfairly hurt your case. However, your court-appointed attorney will be allowed to withdraw if there is another experienced court-appointed attorney who is willing and able to take your case.
Still, we have seen many instances where an individual will start off with a court-appointed attorney, then decide that it is in his/her best interest to hire a more aggressive and knowledgeable CPS defense attorney. Again, when the entire future of your child is at stake, it is a better decision to splurge on an excellent and trusted attorney right from the start.
What if my court-appointed attorney isn’t doing a good job?
Court-appointed attorneys aren’t perfect. You might find that your court-appointed attorney actually isn’t very experienced, but perhaps you have decided to give them a chance anyway.
It’s rare, but if your attorney ends up doing a poor job on your case, you might able to file a claim for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel against them.
This is hard to do, because you have to prove that your attorney performed worse than reasonably expected and that, had you been given a different attorney, the outcome would have been different. These kinds of cases seldom prevail. Still, if you are granted Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, you might be allowed to start the entire case over with a new attorney. We never recommend that a client counts on winning their case on appeal.
Am I allowed to fire my court-appointed attorney?
You are allowed to fire your court-appointed attorney at any point during your case, so long as you are not a minor. However, if you decide to fire your court-appointed attorney, it is unlikely that the court will appoint you a new attorney. If you are in this situation, you have two choices: you can represent yourself which is a terrible idea, or you can hire a new attorney on your own.
We never recommend trying to represent yourself, so it would be in your best interest to find an effective CPS defense attorney to hire. Keep in mind that in Michigan, Children’s Protective Services will be represented by a well paid, highly experienced attorney.
At The Kronzek Firm, we take many Children’s Protective Services cases from clients who have just fired their court-appointed attorney and are looking for a more skilled lawyer to represent them. If you have doubts about your court-appointed attorney, we recommend looking for other options sooner rather than later. The more time we have to prepare your defense, the better. We will also help you fire your court-appointed attorney. Call us at 866-766-5245 to discuss your case.