Termination of Parental Rights: Michigan Supreme Court Ruling (Part Two)
In Part One, we discussed how the Michigan Supreme Court ruled for a family in Oakland County; rescuing the parents from a termination of parental rights order. In re Curry is a sad example of how falsely accused parents and caregivers can find themselves in a protracted legal battle with CPS. Here we discuss the matter further with my take on what went wrong.
The facts of this case are alarming. Triggered by a 3-year-old’s comment, the parents were taken to court. These are the problems I see:
- The case is based on a statement by a 3-year-old. For many years, the court system took a dim view of the reliability of statements by children of this age. Three-year-old children often say things that mean something different to the adult overhearing the statement. Every parent is aware that children say the strangest things and these statements can easily be misunderstood.
- Interviewer bias. After the statement, the child was interviewed by a relative with a strong dislike for the parent. This is probably a classic case of interviewer bias. Interviewer bias is known to produce unreliable information.
- The interviewer used leading questions. Leading questions suggest an answer that the child then reflects back to the questioner. In this case, the child spoke one word: “yes.” The rest of the information was supplied by the adult who seemed to have a lot of venom for the father.
- Ignoring the forensic interview. CPS would never disregard a forensic interview if the child disclosed abuse. So why ignore it when three children disclose no abuse? How are parents supposed to trust a system that operates this way?
- Using the wrong legal standards. Really? This is actually the second time that this very case has been sent back to the trial court by the Supreme Court. The first time the trial court was directed to assess its decision to terminate using the “clear and convincing” legal standard. This has been the legal standard for termination of parental rights for a very long time. It is alarming that the Supreme Court would feel the need to remand again because the Oakland County trial court again used the wrong legal standards.
If you or someone you know is being falsely accused by CPS, we invite you to contact the attorneys at Cronkright Law, PLLC. Our passion is helping parents (and caregivers) fight for their rights to raise and parent their own children without government interference.