Parents are often stunned by the ruling of the Court when an order comes out after a termination hearing. In fact, it’s very common for Mom and Dad to feel completely blindsided, especially if they’ve been methodically completing every task and instruction issued by the Court and the DHHS. These parents often waste precious time trying to develop an appeal because they don’t know the proper steps to take. I often hear stories from parents who complain that their court-appointed trial counsel and the Clerk of the Court failed to provide them with accurate and helpful instructions.
Meeting the Deadline
The most important thing parents need to know is that they only have a short amount of time to file an appeal. The best practice is to request a court-appointed attorney and file a claim of appeal immediately upon receiving an Order terminating your parental rights.
I recently ran across attorney Lisa Speaker’s 10 Things You Should Know article which discusses the deadlines that parents face. This article is written for lawyers, but parents will also find it helpful. However, keep in mind that deadlines and rules can change, so you should never rely on something you read on the internet for the current rules for an appeal.
The Proper Steps
An appeal of termination ruling is a complicated process. While most parents qualify for a court-appointed attorney, many will choose to hire a private lawyer, instead. Either way, you should move quickly to get the process started. The first step is to organize your information and complete any essential paperwork. This paperwork needs to be given to your appellate attorney as soon as possible.
Prepare the following paperwork:
- Your court documents
- Any paperwork and correspondences from your previous legal representatives
- All paperwork which shows the services you engaged in
- Any communications with CPS and DHHS personnel, along with service providers
- Medical, psychological, and counseling records
In addition, you should be prepared to discuss your previous attorneys and the quality of their work. It is possible to claim ineffective assistance of counsel in a neglect/abuse case. Before you meet with your appellate attorney, put some thought into what information would be helpful.
Here are some common topics worth discussing with an appellate attorney:
- What do you think the judge got wrong?
- What do you think your attorney did wrong?
- What information do you think was important that the Court did not hear or consider?
It’s important that you get all relevant information to your appeal attorney as quickly as possible. At the time of this writing, the first deadline for claiming an appeal after a termination order is 14 days, so don’t delay! If you have missed that deadline, it may still be possible to move forward with an appeal, but time is always a critical factor in a parental rights case.
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Cronkright Law is a Michigan law firm focused on helping parents defend false allegations of neglect and abuse brought by CPS, law enforcement officers, and other parties. Our parental rights appeal lawyer is generally available for same-day case evaluations.