When it comes to raising children, parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit. However, because children also have a constitutional right to be raised in a safe and developmentally appropriate environment, how a parent may raise his or her child is not without limitations. Although parents do not have to be perfect, they do need to provide minimally adequate parenting competence. What defines minimally adequate parenting is fact specific and, as discussed below, may cause serious disruption to family life if not provided.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families ("DCF") is tasked with the ever important job of protecting children. If a parent is suspected of neglecting or abusing his or her child, DCF may investigate the family. If DCF investigates the family and finds that the parent probably is neglecting or abusing his or her child, DCF may take emergency custody of the child. When this happens, the child is most often temporarily placed into foster care, and the parents constitutional due process rights are triggered, the first step of which is to provide the parents with what is known as a "72 hour hearing." At the 72 hour hearing, the child is provided his or her own attorney as is any indigent parent. Having adequate representation at the 72 hour hearing is important because the judge will likely decide 1) whether DCF removing the child from the home was reasonable and 2) who should get custody of the child moving forward. Generally, in terms of custody of the child, the judge will pick one of the following: parent with conditions, third-party custody (such as another family member or close friend), non-custodial parent, or DCF. If the case is not settled at or before the 72 hour hearing, it could extend for up to more than a year as there would then be many additional legal steps for the court and DCF to take.
How can the Law Office of Thomas R. Davis help you?
If you find yourself being investigated by DCF, you are well advised to consult with an attorney as soon as possible before speaking with DCF if one is not afforded to you.
We are here to help you. Call us anytime at (617) 431-3887 for a free, no obligation attorney consultation. You can also schedule a free 60 minute consultation online at www.thomasdavislaw.com. We are here to provide you with the quality representation you deserve.