DHS took my child away during my ex’s week because neighbors complained about abuse and neglect.
Formal intervention by California Department of Human Services (DHS) into child custody is virtually always disconcerting to everyone involved. However, it is vitally important to keep a level head to minimize emotional trauma to your minor child.
Your first step should be consulting a qualified attorney with experience in California family law practice. As a natural parent, you are legally entitled to all evidence on which DHS based its decision. This includes police reports, medical records, witness affidavits or statements, and internal documents that contain social workers’ observations, etc. Your attorney will interview all adverse witnesses and investigate DHS’s evidence.
You are also entitled to a hearing before a neutral judge within a reasonable amount of time after DHS assumes physical custody of your child. The state must prove actual child abuse/neglect or reasonable grounds to believe a child is in imminent danger. If alleged abuse/neglect occurred while the child was in your ex’s custody, your lawyer may be able to persuade the court to award you sole custody pending a full investigation.
Comply with any temporary custody or visitation orders while your case is pending. Quite commonly, DHS will file an ex parte affidavit with the juvenile court to obtain immediate physical custody. Although it may be natural to feel upset and distressed, resist the urge to violate or circumvent any court orders.
A very common scenario involves a vindictive third party who makes an anonymous report of child abuse/neglect for purely malicious reasons. In many cases, this person is a grandparent or other relative who wants custody of the child. However, the law gives biological parents priority rights to custody and visitation.
Nevertheless, a responsible family member may be awarded temporary custody during the DHS investigation. If the parent(s) are unfit, then another blood relative has next priority consideration for custody. Regardless of who has temporary physical custody, state law gives parents the right to visit their child on a minimum frequency, unless their parental rights have been formally terminated by court order.
Contact the Law Office of Ann A. Thompson (Seal Beach family law attorney). The courts are obligated to consider every alternative before terminating parental rights. Termination of parental rights is a last resort that judges should “loathe.” Nevertheless, it is crucial to take every possible step early on to protect your legal rights.