Children often find themselves at the heart of family conflict—whether through divorce and separation or other difficult or traumatic experiences. When it comes to child welfare and child custody, the focus must always be on the well-being of the child.
When family circumstances are being investigated for possible abuse or neglect by a child protective services (DSS) agency, many questions can arise for parents, family members, caregivers, and service providers.
Even when family tensions do not involve the serious issues that trigger DSS involvement, high-conflict custody battles can still be damaging to children and their relationships with their caregivers. Whether advising a caregiver in a DSS-involved case, or attempting to resolve differences in a custody challenge between parents, our goal is always to reduce conflict for the benefit of the child and family.Tell Us About Your Case
Reports to local DSS agencies regarding child protective concerns can result in investigations, agency intervention, and court cases resulting in guardianship or even termination of parental rights.
Parents who cannot afford attorneys in DSS court cases are entitled to free appointed counsel. However, a court-appointed lawyer is not available during a DSS investigation or when the parent can afford a lawyer. DSS agencies are busy and sometimes matters that can profoundly affect a parent’s rights can be overlooked or mishandled. An experienced attorney can help set expectations regarding communication and outcomes for the child, parent, and family, at any stage of agency involvement.
When a child is endangered, family members, foster parents, and other caregivers often have nowhere to turn for reliable legal information and no guaranteed “seat at the table” in court matters. For those trying to help a parent reunite with a child, or seeking to provide permanence for a child through adoption, guardianship, or custody, it can be unclear how to interact with the parties in a DSS case.
An attorney experienced in this area can help by interpreting and explaining agency practices, monitoring court proceedings, and planning for the long term.
Court work is time consuming for lawyers and costly for clients. Most parents would agree that their time, money, and emotional energy would be better spent on the child. The court system is made for picking winners and losers, but when a child is caught in the middle of an ugly fight, who wins?
Parents can avoid litigation by improving communication with the other parent, being honest with themselves, and remembering the toll to children of open family tensions. A client may be prepared for an epic custody battle, but by fairly examining parents’ concerns and identifying common interests, we help prepare fertile ground for renewed trust and cooperation, without court involvement.
It can be difficult to know when a custody dispute is at the tipping point. When it appears litigation is inevitable, we insist on fighting fair, treating the other party with civility, avoiding legal gamesmanship, sticking to the genuine issues affecting the child, and seeking resolution at each stage of the case. Having seen firsthand the havoc that conflict wreaks in children’s lives, we see no other way.
Hiring an attorney doesn’t have to wait until tensions erupt. The toughest stories from clients often involve decisions made or actions taken, without solid legal advice, before seeking help. Both in custody disagreements and child protective scenarios, early engagement with a skilled legal advisor can help you carefully decide and plan for what lies ahead.