Fighting Connecticut DCF in Court
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has an incredible amount of power when it comes to deciding what is in the best interests of your children. With little knowledge of your home situation, DCF can quickly launch an investigation into you and your family, putting your parental rights at risk and turning you and your children’s lives upside down.
When it comes to DCF in Connecticut, you have rights, and you should understand them. You must take everything DCF says and does seriously because they wield a powerful sword. But that doesn’t mean you should back down in the face of an investigation or allow a state agency to ruin your life.
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, we stand up to DCF with you. Attorney Christie has an extensive background with DCF cases and specializes in representing the rights of parents who are under investigation by the agency. If DCF has entered your life and is treating you unfairly, call us today to find out how you can fight back.
The Role of DCF in Connecticut
In the state of Connecticut, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a state agency that exists to oversee services and programs involving child welfare. In short, its purpose is to ensure that children in the state remain free from harm, so they are authorized to remove a child from a situation that is presumed to be “harmful.”
If DCF removes a child from a home, the parents or caregivers of that child must attend a hearing where evidence is presented relative to any possible abuse or neglect. If the judge decides that the evidence is credible, they can grant custody of the child to another family member or place the child in foster care.
Your Rights As a Parent in DCF Litigation
The thought of DCF removing your children from your home is probably terrifying and a bit maddening. Just about anything could send a DCF agent to a person’s house, including a false allegation by a vindictive ex or a simple misunderstanding. But things can get very real, very quickly when an agent is pushing paperwork in front of you and stating that your children are being temporarily removed “for their safety.”
While this can be a frightening and confusing time, you have rights when you meet a DCF caseworker. These include:
- The Right to Know Any Charges– If you are being charged with anything, state law requires that DCF advise you of precisely what those charges are. Unless they provide you with that information, you do not have to allow a DCF caseworker into your home.
- The Right to See a Court Order – DCF caseworkers must have a court order to enter your home without permission. You have the right to ask for their warrant or court order before agreeing to meet with a caseworker.
- The Right to Remain Silent– Like a criminal investigation, a DCF caseworker can’t force you to talk about anything. You have the right to remain silent under all circumstances, and you should probably exercise this right.
Exercising Your Rights in the Face of a DCF Action
If the DCF has started a dependency action, this is not the same thing as criminal prosecution. Although the authorities might get involved in some DCF cases, that is a separate matter. With DCF, there is no sentence or bail. But DCF does act the same way a State’s Attorney’s Office would in a criminal case.
It can be easy for a DCF officer to intimidate a parent into signing a case plan, which might include provisions for parenting classes, drug testing, and even a psychological evaluation. You don’t have to sign or agree to anything. DCF must prove in court that their allegations are true with clear and convincing evidence.
Judges in Connecticut will not take children away from their parents just because it is in their best interests to stay with foster parents or relatives. A parent must be declared “unfit” by abusing, neglecting, or abandoning their children before a court can adjudicate the children to be dependents of the state.
Fighting a Connecticut DCF Action in Court
If you have been accused of being an unfit parent by the Connecticut DCF, you can and should fight this action in court. What many parents don’t realize is that their parental rights are one of the oldest protected rights in the U.S. Constitution under the due process clause.
Your children also have legal rights. When DCF makes discretionary calls that take children away from the safety and security of their parents, it can cause irreparable harm. Some children are even split up and placed in separate foster homes from day one.
If you are served with a DCF Neglect Petition, you need a qualified Connecticut DCF attorney who can advocate for your rights. The hearing will take place in a private setting in front of a judge who will consider the evidence presented by both parties. At the end of the hearing, the judge will determine if there is cause for the child to be found neglected or abused.
If you lose at the initial hearing or didn’t have proper representation, you have the right to appeal the judge’s decision. You only have a limited time to file a notice of appeal, and it’s a good idea to do this with the guidance of an experienced attorney. During the appeal process, DCF will be required to show that there was probable cause for the allegations, which is a slightly higher burden of proof. Unless they can produce enough evidence to support their case, you may be able to prevail with the right strategy.
Speak With An Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, we represent clients throughout the State of Connecticut who are facing intrusive DCF investigations and allegations of abuse or neglect. If DCF is threatening your parental rights, it’s time to fight back in court. Please call our office today at (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation.