Unprecedented Ruling Against Texas Child Protective Services

Unprecedented Ruling Against Texas Child Protective Services

Many challenging legal matters can leave families feeling hopeless. It is important for families to know, however, that having a knowledgeable attorney by their side can increase their chances of obtaining major wins—even against big government bureaucracies. One previous case by Deer Park Divorce Attorney Dennis M. Slate (who handles various family law matters) is a strong example of this type of scenario. The attorney was able to help a family win their case against Texas Child Protective Services (CPS), resulting in two parents regaining custody of their infant twin daughters and the agency being ordered to pay the family's $32,000 in attorney fees. According to the Houston Chronicle's article about the case in 2011, the court judgment was considered to be a "rare if not unprecedented legal sanction against the agency." When a court decision is unprecedented, that means that no other decisions of its kind have come before it.

The sanction occurred after the District Court judge presiding over the case determined that a CPS caseworker did not have proper grounds when she tried to remove two premature infant twins from their parents' custody. In addition to the order for the attorney fees, the judge also ordered the caseworker and her supervisor to write a report showing that they understood Texas' statutes concerning the removal of children from their homes.

The Houston Chronicle outlined how the events leading up the ruling played out. According to the news story, the case revolved around the two baby girls who were born prematurely in December 2010—one weighing 5 pounds at birth and the other weighing 6 pounds. Due to their low weight, the infants' parents were bringing them in to see a pediatrician on a weekly basis. One of the twins then received bronchitis from an older sibling, leading to the family eventually being referred to Texas Children's Hospital. In January 2011, an X-ray at the hospital showed that the infant had several rib fractures that were in the healing process—the baby's mother said she did not know how the injuries occurred. This raised alarm. Doctors at the hospital asked the parents to bring in the other two children for examination, and they also put in a call to CPS.

The next set of examinations led to more unsettling news; the other infant had fractures in the same place as her sister. This resulted in CPS asking the children's parents to agree to have their in-laws take care of the three children until the agency completed an investigation concerning the matter. The situation took an even further unexpected turn from there, according to the Houston Chronicle article. Within a matter of five days, the parents were told that CPS had obtained emergency legal custody of their three children.

Several issues were raised as the parents fought to regain custody of their children. First, neither the parents nor their attorney (Mr. Slate) were given notice of the legal custody hearing. Second, the judge was not informed of the volunteer agreement that was established between the agency and the family (which he said would have affected his decision to hand over emergency custody). Furthermore, a medical expert was used by the parents to show that there was not enough proof that the fractures occurred through abuse, particularly since there was no evidence of bruising or internal bleeding. In fact, he even stated that simply lifting the premature infants could have been the cause.

The judge (the same one who had granted the initial emergency custody) ultimately ruled in favor of the girls' parents, calling it "egregious and indicative of bad faith" that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS' parent agency) did not inform parents of the temporary emergency order until hours after they received it, which is also after the court's business hours.

Attorney Slate handles various types of family law cases, including those that involve issues related to CPS and child custody. The lawyer has been recognized for his exceptional legal skills and service on both local and statewide levels. Contact Slate & Associates, Attorneys at Law to learn more about how the talented lawyer can potentially be of service in your case.


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Please note, the attorneys at Slate & Associates, Attorneys at Law, are only licensed to practice in the state of Texas, and cannot assist with out-of-state cases.