Family law is complex. It involves real families who are experiencing serious stress and disruption to their lives. If you’re working with a family lawyer, it means that you and your family are likely going through one of a few scenarios. Since this type of law clearly involves families, you might be seeking legal advice on something like filing for divorce or seeking divorce mediation. Since families also involve children, child services is another big component of family law. The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates knows that child custody rights or a parent or grandparent’s visitation rights – or lack thereof – are more than just sensitive matters. Families’ entire lives together are on the line when you’re talking about family law.
Negotiating the legal system can be confusing. In certain cases involving family law, certain officials and specialists might need to be called in. In cases of domestic abuse, for example, dedicated domestic violence attorneys might seek a protective order in a court serving Franklin, Tennessee. Partners may even accuse the other parent of domestic violence in order to increase their odds of getting custody of a child. And Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) will probably be consulted in any type of case involving children.
What types of cases are the most likely to include DCS?
Here are the three main reasons your family would be involved with DCS.
You’re adopting a child
Congratulations! You’re about to add a new member to your family. If the child you are looking to adopt is in the guardianship of the state, you will need to go through a formal process with the DCS. The first step is getting a home study done by a licensed child-placement agency. Fees vary for the home study, and other possible fees include an application and/or orientation fee, a post-placement supervision visit, and reimbursement of any mileage or travel fees. If you are adopting a child outside of Tennessee, DCS will conduct a study once they receive an interstate compact on the placement of children (ICPC) request from the other state.
DCS provides continued support for families after adoption through its partnership with the Harmony family center. Harmony’s Adoption Support and Preservation Program (ASAP) and Guardianship Support and Preservation Program (GSAP) provide many services to Tennessee families, including:
- Parent education opportunities
- Access to advocacy services
- Personalized case management
- Dedicated support groups
- A free telephone helpline (888-848-2727)
- Individualized, in-home crisis intervention
Extra support is available to parents who choose to adopt children with special needs. DCS will determine if a child is eligible for its Adoption Assistance program, which provides qualified families with a monthly subsidy payment. If a family is accepted into the program, the one-time expense of finalizing the adoption or securing guardianship will be covered by the program on the family’s behalf. Participants in the Adoption Assistance program may also be eligible for a federal adoption tax credit for any of their qualified adoption expenses.
Medicaid benefits are also offered to all families in Tennessee (including those in the Adoption Assistance program) through TennCare, which provides free healthcare services to children from birth through 20 years.
The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates offer a full suite of adoption law services to prospective adoptive families in Franklin.
You’ve been accused of neglect
Maybe you were reported to DCS by a neighbor, friend, or school teacher. Anyone who has a suspicion that a child is being neglected in Tennessee is considered to be a mandated reporter, meaning they must report any suspected abuse. Someone might question if it’s their place to get involved. But any person who doesn’t report that a child is (or might be) in danger by virtue of neglect can be fined or even imprisoned.
What exactly constitutes neglect? DCS describes neglect as the “failure to provide for a child’s physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm, or risk of harm, to the child’s health or safety.” Not providing a child with proper healthcare, adequate food and drink, or the appropriate amount of emotional attention and support are all examples of types of neglect. A DCS investigation will assess whether a child’s treatment is consistent with neglect. Even if the neglect claim against you is substantiated, or confirmed by the investigation, you have rights, including the right to disagree with the charge. If you want to contest a charge and file an appeal, a Franklin lawyer can get the process started by filing a formal file review on your behalf.
You’ve been reported for abuse
Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or psychological. As with cases of neglect, individuals are legally obligated to report anything that seems like child abuse. If you are aware that a child is being sexually abused by another person, you need to make a “reasonable effort” to try to stop the abuse: if not, you can be tried for child abuse yourself. If you’ve been credibly accused of a form of abuse, you have the same right to appeal as in cases of neglect. If you appeal an abuse or neglect charge and are granted a hearing, you will not get a court-appointed attorney from the state of Tennessee. If you want legal representation, you will need to reach out to an attorney on your own behalf.
What happens if you disagree with a decision made by DCS?
Things can get complicated when you’re dealing with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. You have a few options if you don’t agree with a decision that has been made in your hearing. You can appeal directly to the administrative judge to reconsider their verdict. Or you can appeal to the DCS commissioner who is the only one who has the power to overturn the ruling of the judge. Finally, you can file an appeal for a judicial review. An appeal for a judicial review must be filed in a chancery court. Chancery courts are specific to settling disputes, particularly in areas of family law, such as custody cases and adoption. If you’re appealing for a judicial review, an experienced family lawyer can advise you on the best course of action for your case.
How can a Franklin family lawyer help me with my family law case?
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we have the tools to help you deal with the sensitive issues you might confront when faced with a family legal matter. Our lawyers are known for their compassionate approach to families, and we pride ourselves on our tireless dedication to client services. With our decades of legal experience in Tennessee, we will advocate for the best possible outcome for your whole family. For legal services in Franklin, Brentwood, or Columbia, call us or fill out our contact form to get a free personal consultation.