July 24, 2015
Getting Your Hat In The Ring – Family Member Rights In CPS Lawsuits
CPS - Removal of a Child from a Home
When Child Protective Services (CPS) takes action to remove a child from a home the experience can be devastating for the child, parents and the many other family members who may be involved in the child’s life. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) works to protect children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities from abuse and neglect.
CPS is the division of DFPS charged with investigating reports of child abuse and neglect to determine whether there any threats to the health, safety or well-being of children. If CPS finds evidence of a risk of child abuse or neglect in the home and believes that there are no alternatives to removal, the agency will take action to remove the children from the home. In some situations CPS will obtain a court order before removing the children. However, if an emergency exists, CPS can act without a court order so as to protect the children from immediate danger.
When CPS removes a child from a home and initiates a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR), grandparents and other family members may come forward wanting to take care of the child and be involved in the legal process. Unlike the parents, grandparents and family members are not a party to the CPS lawsuit. This means that they cannot participate in the legal action. In order to become a party to the lawsuit, the grandparent or family member must file a petition to intervene in the CPS suit.
Intervening in the CPS Lawsuit
Texas Family Code Section 102.004 (Standing For Grandparent Or Other Person) provides that a court may grant a grandparent or other person with “substantial past contact with the child” leave to intervene in an ongoing SAPCR lawsuit. In order to grant such intervention, the court must find “satisfactory proof” that appointing the parent or parents as managing conservators would not be in the child’s best interest because it would “significantly impair” the physical health or emotional development of the child.
When grandparents or relatives believe that parents are not able to properly take care of their children, they may seek to intervene in the CPS legal action and gain managing conservatorship (custody) of the children. If the court grants managing conservatorship to a grandparent or other relative, this means that he or she will have the legal right and responsibility to take care of the children and manage their affairs. The grandparent or relative will be given the authority to make important choices for the children, including decisions involving their education, financial welfare, health care and discipline.
In Texas, intervening in a CPS lawsuit and being appointed as a conservator can be a challenging process. The laws are not always clear as to when a grandparent or relative will have standing to intervene in an on-going legal action. If you are a grandparent or family member who believes that a child in your family may be at risk, you should discuss the situation with a qualified Texas child custody attorney. CPS cases are highly emotional and can be very confusing for everyone involved. An experienced lawyer will explain your options so that you can choose the best path available to protect the needs and interests of the child.