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Child Protective Services in Texas is tasked with a big responsibility: keeping children safe. That’s why they’re required to investigate all allegations of abuse and neglect without much regard to the truthfulness of the initial claims. This can jeopardize your family integrity, which is why you need to be careful in how you interact with CPS and its employees. If you’re not, then your children could be taken from your care, which could have major implications for both your short- and long-term rights as a parent, as well as any outstanding custody cases you might have with your children’s other parent.

Things to consider when coming into contact with CPS

To successfully navigate your involvement with CPS, you need to keep a few things in mind. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • Your statements will be used against you: CPS cases oftentimes become child welfare cases where the State may try to present evidence against you in hopes of keeping a child out of your care and/or ensuring that the State can intervene in your life to provide you with certain services. Therefore, when interacting with CPS workers or law enforcement, try to keep your temperament in check and don’t be so quick to provide information. We know that coming into contact with the child welfare system can be stressful and nerve-wracking, but you don’t want to cause any self-inflicted harm to your family or your rights as a parent.
  • Know your rights: You have a lot of protections when it comes to involvement with CPS. For example, you children can’t be removed from your care without a court order or the assistance of law enforcement. Therefore, a CPS worker, on his or her own, can’t remove your children from your care. Also, CPS workers might ask you to provide a lot of information or even submit to a drug screen. During the investigation phase, you’re under no obligation to provide that information or submit to a drug screen. CPS also can’t interview your children without your consent or a court order. It’s helpful to be as cooperative as possible during these investigations, but, again, you don’t want to cause any avoidable harm to your family’s integrity.
  • You don’t have to navigate the process alone: The CPS and child welfare systems can seem confusing and stacked against you as a parent. The good news is that you don’t have to face the process alone. Instead, you can choose to obtain the assistance of an attorney who understands this area of the law and how to navigate with your parental rights in mind. This attorney can not only advocate for your best interests, but he or she can also serve as a buffer to a certain extent between you and CPS, which can make things a lot easier on your end.
  • CPS involvement can affect your custody case: Although CPS assessments and child welfare cases are separate from your divorce or paternity case, they can have major implications on pending custody matters. Therefore, you need to be cautious in your dealings with CPS and keep in mind the bigger picture of how your words and actions can affect your relationship with your child even after the State is out of your life.

Have experience on your side

Dealing with CPS and the juvenile courts is unlike any other part of the law. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone on your side who is experienced in navigating the system and can assist you in getting past whatever allegations you may be facing. One of these attorneys can help you not only work with CPS and the court as needed, but they can also help build the defense that you may end up needing to protect your rights as a parent and your children’s best interests.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for Texas parents who have recently divorced. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to ensure that you and your former partner do what it takes to provide an enjoyable experience for your children.

Be prepared to compromise

There is a good chance that you might not be able to spend both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas morning with your child. Therefore, it may be a better idea to ask to spend either Thanksgiving Day or Christmas morning with your son or daughter when it comes time to create the holiday parenting plan. Ideally, the parenting plan will be created well in advance so that extended family members can include you in some or all of their festivities.

Focus on the events leading up to a holiday

You may be disappointed that you can't spend Christmas Day with your child. However, this doesn't mean that he or she can't come over to decorate the tree on a specific day or bake cookies for Santa before he makes his trip around the world. Furthermore, it's important to note that most kids don't really care when they get to open their presents. Therefore, you shouldn't feel like Christmas is ruined because your son or daughter opened a gift on the 18th or the 28th.

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Like most other states, Texas law allows you to have an active role in your child's life after a divorce. You and your son or daughter's other parent may be allowed to create the terms of a parenting plan that will govern how your child is raised. Working in good faith to create this plan can help to show your son or daughter that meeting his or her needs is your top priority.

Make sure that the plan is reasonable

It is important that you can manage to transport your child to school, to the other parent's house and to extracurricular activities with relative ease. If your child is used to spending time with a babysitter, that person should remain a part of your son or daughter's life. Depending on how old your child is, it may be worthwhile to solicit his or her input when crafting a parenting plan.

Remember that your child's needs outweigh yours

When crafting a custody or visitation plan, you should always remember that your child's needs are more important than what you want. Therefore, you shouldn't insist on a particular arrangement just because it is convenient for you or because you want to win the negotiation. In most cases, your former partner is also making sacrifices for the good of your child whether you recognize them or not.

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In a worst-case scenario, a divorced parent in Texas may resort to parental alienation to try to get revenge against the other parent. The practice is very destructive and can do long-term damage to the children. As a result, courts will act very strongly when they learn that one parent is engaging in this behavior. It is vital to learn when this is happening and act quickly.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent badmouths the other to the children, feeding them falsehoods meant to destroy their relationship with the other parent. The parent does this because they feel that it is their way of getting back at the other parent for the divorce. The alienating parent is usually an angry individual who has a certain need that the children fulfill with validating that parent's behavior. Thus, you can see how parental alienation actually becomes a symbiotic relationship between the alienator and the children.

How parental alienation is destructive

This loop is destructive in the near-term and can be even more devastating over the long run. Years of therapy may be needed in order to reverse the effects of alienation. As a parent, your relationship with your children may be able to recover, but it will take intensive work. This is why it is vital to act as quickly as possible before deeper damage can be done. A court may even strip the alienating parent of their custodial time with the children or their ability to see them without supervision.

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Shared custody arrangements in Texas truly requires that the two parents be able to partner for the good of their children. Co-parenting with someone with whom you may have had an unsuccessful relationship is not always easy. However, putting the past aside and incorporating sound and sensible rules can help you form a lasting and productive relationship that can support shared custody.

Be careful how you talk

In a shared custody situation, your words matter. This encompasses both what you speak about your ex and what you say to him or her. It is critical to never say anything negative about the other parent to or around your children. You must also learn how to communicate respectfully. Even if you were unable to communicate during your relationship with your ex, it is vital to set aside the past and learn how to talk now.

The children come first

Your parenting arrangement must also be focused on the children. First and foremost, everything that you do should be mindful of what is best for them. Since you want to create a childhood that will enable your kids to become well-adjusted adults, make sure that their needs come first. Children need to know that their opinions matter and that they are listened to by both parents. To the extent that any co-parenting arrangement needs to be adjusted, you should periodically reevaluate the plan and make changes as necessary.

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