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A call to 911 is generally mutually assured destruction of a family and the lives of all involved. It doesn't matter that you're innocent.

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A Sacramento Court

How the Court System Works

By William Tower

The actions you take immediately after your children have been removed from your home is critical and can mean the difference between getting your children home quickly or spending years trying to get them back home again.

The first thing a parent needs to remember is throughout this entire process, is that you only have (3) three times to have a trial, and only three: Another thing to remember is that if the child is 3 or under they can move for termination of parental rights (TPR) in 6 months.

The book: Warning The Truth About Child Protective Services and the Staggering Impact on Society by Don Lyons, available on Kids for Money has an excellent section on this topic.

  1. Detention hearing — (72-hours after the taking of children)
  2. Jurisdiction hearing — (30-days after the taking of children)
  3. Termination of Parental Rights hearing — (15-months after the taking of children or if the child is 3 or under 6 months to TPR.)
  4. Related Articles

Detention Hearing

  1. The first one is after they take children you have the detention hearing that is usually within 72 judicial hours. That is why children are normally taken on a Thursday or Friday giving the Department until Tuesday to hold the first hearing. This gives them more time to put their case together and more time to work on the children.

    Don't waste time, you need to get a good attorney or someone that will help explain how this all works. If you go with the court appointed attorney tell him if you are innocent and demand a trial at this hearing. Usually the court appointed attorney will meet with you 5-10 minutes before court and tell you "just agree with this one and we will catch up with it at the next hearing in 30-days and that will give us time to prepare a defense," (Do Not believe this.) Demand a trial at this hearing. You are entitled to have a trial at this time.

    They will tell you that "if you fight this hearing, that all the data the department has put on paper to the court will become legal fact," don't fall for this one, it is all ready fact as far as the court is concerned. So fight it with all you have.

    [Note] This is where you have the best chance of beating them as they are not ready for a trial and they don't have a case yet, (not enough time to put it together). This is the best time to push and win the children back. This is the only time you will get to dispute what they have done on paper for this hearing. If you do not fight, it will become (res judicarta) all ready dealt with and you can not bring it up again. It has been made legal fact. "Done deal." So demand a trial. (Did I day that before?) If you agree to this hearing they will beat you to death with it and say that you admitted guilt and now need to get with the case plan.

    1. Do not agree to a deal. (Unless you are guilty of what they are saying.)
    2. Do not let your attorney stipulate to the court on your behalf. (Make your attorney explain what this means.)
    3. Do not state to the court that you understand what is happening, make them spell it out. You will not look stupid for doing this as most attorneys don't understand it all no matter what they say.
    4. If your attorney does not defend you, ask for a new one that will.
    5. If they hold your children (as they usually do) make sure visitation is ordered by the court and have the court spell it out, do not let the court leave it up to the caseworker. They will not let you see your children as they still need to work on them to get what they want.
    6. Make sure that your Attorney does not allow the court and or the department to run the dispositional and jurisdictional hearings together make them hold them separately. No good can come of running them together as the facts will get run together in the court and they won't be able to separate them legally themselves.

Jurisdiction Hearing

  1. The second hearing is called the "Jurisdiction Hearing" This is the second time you are entitled to a trial. If you are innocent use this as the second "bite at the apple" time to get your story heard. It is extremely important to do this at this Trial (Notice I use the word Trial?). Fight this one hard and win. Make the attorney work and do what is right. They will tell you that: you don't have a chance look at what is in the paperwork, the only thing to do is cut a deal, they will also tell you that what the department is offering is a great deal, Don't believe it. Now is the time to fight or settle in for the long haul. You choose which you want to do. You need to win this one.

    If you win, the children come home, case closed. Do not do anything to pop up on their radar screen. (Stay away from them.) i.e. Do Not sign up for welfare benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, or any other services they offer. Stay away from them and their services. Also watch out for mandated reporters. i.e. doctors, schools, etc.

    If you lose the jurisdiction trial, you have nothing to do but comply with the case plan. "You are in the system" settle in for the long haul as now you get a "review" every six (6) months. Do what the case plan says as soon as possible and then ask the worker for more. Comply, comply, comply, always remember it is about the children. The fight here is to get the children back, forget about any federal suit at this time, work on getting the children back. That is the mission here. If they ask you to do a parenting class, do three or four, if they send you to therapy, talk about how this is affecting your children, not you. This is not about you. Remember this it is not about you. It all about your children!

    If at the 6 month hearing you do not get your children back, start the case plan over and do more things and services. The one's you did before the 6-month review have been used and now you need to start again. Comply, Comply, and Comply.

Termination of Parental Rights Hearing

  1. Now we are down to the (TPR) Termination of Parental Rights. By this time your children have been in the system for 15-16 months. You are tired of the battle and broke. Things look grim and almost lost. Do not give up, your children are stake here. This is the third time you have a right to a trial. Make it a good one. If you lose this one your children are gone and the only thing you have left is an appeal. This is almost always lost. Make sure you have done every thing the court has asked you to do. Make the attorney put enough on the record to give you good appeal issues. Then use them.

William Tower, President
American Family Rights Association (AFRA)

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This is not to be taken for legal advice, just as good advice/information. You will need an attorney to obtain legal advice. The laws in your state may vary from these, which are typical of California law.

Updated January 1, 2013