“Why Do I Need To Hire A Lawyer Before Talking To The Social Worker?”

deer in a cage

deer in a cage courtesy of freedigitalimages.net

This morning I got a call from a potential new client who had made an appointment but called to cancel because he wanted to “wait and see how it goes” with the social worker. This is the stuff that my nightmares are made of. A perfectly unsuspecting fawn is about to walk into the lion’s den and he doesn’t even know he is dinner.

The single most important thing that a parent can do when they are being investigated by CPS is to get legal advice. The parent has no idea why they are being investigated and many times does not even know if the conduct in question is child abuse, neglect, or endangerment. They may have grown up with this conduct and believe it is normal (for example, corporal punishment), may not see it from the perspective of the child (who just told the principle their parents abuse them), or have rationalized the conduct to protect themselves from their own feelings of guilt. I have seen every one of these situations.

The parent also has no idea what obligation the social worker has. They don’t know that it is not enough that the parent is a “good” parent according to the parent or their friends and family. They don’t know that having no prior history with CPS or the police is not going to mean they get a break. They don’t know that anything they say can and will be turned over to the police and can be used to bring criminal charges against them. They don’t have any idea what to say and not to say, from a legal perspective.

Other times we get calls from parents who have already spoken to the social worker. When they call back and say they decided to keep handling their matter without a lawyer, they don’t realize that their matter may have already been closed if they had hired a lawyer. Whatever they said the first time did not result in the case being closed so whatever they continue to say in their own defense is unlikely to have a different effect.

“The man who represents himself has a fool for a client,” the old adage says. Lawyers have dedicated their careers to protecting their clients. Not only do they know what to say and know what not to say, they are emotionally detached enough to help their clients made good choices.

Fortunately, my assistant was able to explain to the client why seeing me BEFORE meeting with the social worker was the most critical thing he could do to protect himself.

Tonight, I will sleep a little better.