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Overview of CPS Litigation

Child Protective Services litigation involves the removal of children from their parents, often the children are placed in foster care or with relatives while the parents work court ordered services theoretically designed to remedy the reasons that CPS became involved and removed the children.  In most instances, CPS is legislatively mandated to take steps towards reunifying the family; however, it is common for CPS to run a concurrent suit that seeks to terminate the parent-child relationship.  The determination as to whether a parent has taken the necessary steps to be reunified with their child is open to interpretation; frequently CPS and parents disagree as to what constitutes "successful completion of services."

Section 263.401 of the Texas Family Code mandates that unless a trial has commenced or an extension has been granted, the court must render a final order or dismiss the CPS suit.  As with most lawsuits, the parties can agree to settle the case, which usually means that the children are returned back to their parents or a parent agrees to execute an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights.  However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the case is tried to either a judge or a jury.  Termination of the parent-child relationship is permanent.  The U.S. Supreme Court has identified parental right termination cases as the "death penalty cases of civil litigation" because once termination occurs, it is absolute and final.