Incarcerated Parent Rights

Man in jail holding barsIn Michigan, just because a parent is incarcerated doesn’t mean that the prisoner will automatically lose their parental rights. The Michigan Supreme Court made this official in 2010. To read more about this, see the actual case, In Re Mason Minors.

It was former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura D. Corrigan the wrote the opinion for this case. In it, our high court decides that having been incarcerated, by itself, is not reason enough to terminate a person’s parental rights. Justice Corrigan wrote for the court:

               “The court effectively terminated respondent’s parental rights merely because he was incarcerated during the action without considering the children’s placement with relatives or properly evaluating whether placement with respondent could be appropriate for the children in the future. Incarceration alone is not a sufficient reason for termination of parental rights.”

The Michigan Supreme Court determined that the referee who handled the case for the trial court did not fully consider whether or not Mr. Mason and his family had provided proper care and custody for his minor children, and whether they would be able to continue to do so. Here, Mr. Mason’s family was allowed to care for the Mason children after the trial court had taken jurisdiction of the children in the CPS petition filed against the parents by Children’s Protective Services (CPS).

In Michigan, termination or parental rights (TPR) is only allowed when all three of these conditions are met:

  • The parent’s imprisonment will result in the children not having a normal home for at least 2 years.
  • The parent is unable to provide proper care and custody for the minor child.
  • The parent will unlikely be able to properly provide for the child in a reasonable time.

Michigan state seal and gavelThis Michigan Supreme Court ruling was great news for families that are involved in CPS cases here in Michigan.

Former Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and Former Justices Michael Cavanagh and Robert Young joined Justice Corrigan in the majority opinion, questioning the actions of the trial court and DHHS. DHHS is the Department of Health and Human Services.

Children’s Protective Services (CPS) is a part of Michigan’s DHHS. Our Supreme Court was particularly critical of the minimal attempts Mr. Haag, the CPS worker, was making to reunify Mr. Mason with his children during his time in prison.

Further, Mr. Mason’s court-appointed attorney and the trial court referee did not follow the Michigan Court Rule provision (MCR 2.004). This provision permits incarcerated parents to phone-in to each hearing where CPS is requesting the court to make a ruling regarding the minor child. MCR 2.004(F) states:

A court may not grant the relief requested by the moving party concerning the minor child if the incarcerated party has not been offered the opportunity to participate in the proceedings, as described in this rule.

The CPS attorneys tried to make the argument that they did not violate MCR 2.004, because they allowed Mr. Mason to participate in two out of the seven hearings affecting his parental rights. However, the Supreme Court rejected this argument because Mr. Mason should have been included in all of those hearings.

MCR 2.004(F) has been in effect since 2003, but this Michigan Supreme Court decision confirms that the provision will be strictly enforced. Now, incarcerated parents can breathe a little more calmly knowing that, upon release, they may be able to reunite with their families once again.

woman in courtroom addressing judgeThey can also know that hearings affecting their parental rights won’t be able to proceed without their participation. This ruling will likely continue to guide even more CPS litigation.

The court reinforced the very high importance that we put on preserving a family unit whenever possible. The Kronzek Firm’s CPS Defense Team has been fighting to keep families together for decades.

If you’re facing a battle with Michigan’s CPS, contact us today! Early involvement of our attorneys is critical. We keep up-to-date with all legal developments that may affect your case. Call us at 866-766-5245 or write us today! We’ve got your back.