In Indiana, there are thousands of DCS’ investigations each year. Many result in filing a petition to open a CHINS’ action against the parents. In the initial investigation from the DCS to and through the hearing, if a CHINS petition is filed, parents have the constitutional right to counsel. The question this blog post focuses on is, “Should parents have private counsel?”
The answer is “probably.” There are four key reasons parents should seriously consider counsel. First, a CHINS’ proceeding involves complex orders and services the parents must follow. The purpose of these services is typically reunification with a parent or parents. If you do not comply with services, or have difficulties, an attorney may help you navigate the process so you do not risk contempt of court or impair your ability to be reunified with your child.
Second, many of the factual allegations that cause children to become CHINS are based on criminal actions within the home. Therefore, statements, admissions, and services may incriminate you and result in you being criminally charged. An attorney can help you determine the course to navigate through when making decisions about your children versus those that might incriminate you. You have the absolute right not to incriminate yourself. In other words, by making statements and admissions in CHINS, you may cause criminal actions to be filed against you if you are not careful.
Third, a CHINS filing is not the same as finding it true. It is like being criminally charged, but the state still has to prove the case for you to be convicted, which in CHINS is called “substantiated”. There will be a later trial called a fact-finding, and you may have the CHINS dismissed by prevailing. In other cases, an attorney may be able to mediate with DCS and result in an informal agreement, called an informal adjustment. This way, you can avoid a trial and associated risks all together.
Fourth, and finally, while parents have a precious fundamental right to raise their children, if you fail to cooperate in DCS and certain other evidence is provided at the CHINS’ fact-finding (trial), with a true finding, the State may later move to terminate your parental rights. This severs your parent child relationship and means you are no longer legally the father or mother of this child. Then, the child can be adopted by someone else.
For the reasons above, it is prudent to carefully consider obtaining counsel in a DCS/CHINS proceeding. These are the risks. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., who handle DCS cases throughout the state. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation for services or legal advice. It is an advertisement.