Child Abuse and Neglect cases are among the most frightening in Family Court. When charges of abuse or neglect are made, it is essential to have an experienced and dedicated family law attorney by your side. This is true whether you are a parent seeking to protect your child or acing wrongful or malicious/ false allegations of abuse.
When charges are made to the Child Abuse Hotline, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is statutorily obligated to conduct a timely investigation. The Cabinet must investigate some charges within forty eight hours, while in other cases; the Cabinet has up to thirty days in order to complete its investigation. The investigative social worker has the right to interview all relevant parties. This includes the ability to interview a child without a parent’s consent. In the event that the investigative worker is seeking to interrogate a suspected wrongdoer, it is essential to have counsel present when the initial investigation of Abuse and/or Neglect is undertaken.
In the event that the Cabinet files a Petition, the initial court date is scheduled for a temporary removal hearing. This is perhaps the most important hearing during the pendency of the case. At the temporary removal hearing, the Court decides whether to allow the child to remain with the parent, to place the child in the temporary custody of a friend or family member, or, in the most serious cases, to place the child in foster care.
A Family Court is obligated to conduct a bench trial to determine whether the allegations in the initial petition are true. Proper investigation and preparation are essential in order to make certain that the Trial is conducted in a fair and reasonable manner. If the Court finds that the allegations are true, the case is continued for a final hearing called a disposition. At that time, the Court may order the Parties to participate in rehabilitative services in order to maintain placement in the home or achieve reunification with the child.
Given the stakes involved in these cases, including but not limited to the potential removal of the child and/or termination of parental right, self representation is a mistake. Finally, given the quick nature of the proceedings, it is important to contact counsel at the earliest possible moment so that a parent’s rights can be protected and the children can be maintained in a safe and appropriate home.