Dependency and Neglect Cases
They’re Trying To Take My Child
Dependency and Neglect allegations are serious and scary. They serve as the primary method for the State, through the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), to remove your child from your care. Private individuals, typically family members with whom you disagree, may also bring these allegations. The goal is the same—someone is calling you an unfit parent, and they are trying to take your child away.
Legally, the law provides a detailed and elaborate process for these cases. Technically, your rights as a parent are protected by the US and Tennessee Constitutions, but you wouldn’t know it by how the State and courts often act. Instead, you are put on the defensive almost immediately, and treated like an abuser. As such, you need to act quickly, because you can seriously undermine your case right from the start, so contact a lawyer as soon as you possibly can.
Your rights can be impacted before anyone takes your child. DCS can initiate an investigation, and usually demands access to your home and requests a drug screen. They may ask that you sign an agreement to “temporarily” place your child in another home. The Courts say it’s okay for DCS to intentionally deceive you, so be careful before signing ANY agreement. You are supposed to receive a hearing within three days of your child leaving your care. You are then supposed to get a full trial within sixty days if your child hasn’t been returned. These hearings often don’t occur in a timely way, and your rights get trampled in the process.
Court Appointed Counsel
If you do not have much money, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you. Some of these attorneys are excellent, but the state pays them so little that few excellent attorneys last long, and it gets worse every year. There is no way to know if you will get an excellent court appointed attorney, or an attorney who graduated law school two weeks ago. Either way, you can be sure that the court appointed attorney is not making anywhere near a fair rate for his or her time, and it can show.
As soon as you become aware that DCS or anyone else may try to take your child under these laws, contact an attorney. Downton Clark, PLLC attorneys have handled hundreds of these cases over the years. Mark J. Downton has successfully defended numerous cases where DCS attempted to terminate parental rights, and has personally handled numerous appeals. We know these laws and many of the players inside and out. We urge you to contact us, or if not us any attorney, before you lose the most important relationship in your life.