Hyattsville, MD asked in Family Law, Child Custody, Civil Rights and Juvenile Law for Pennsylvania

Q: I have a cys matter I'm currently going to court for! They have unlawfully taken my kids and refuse to return them.

What can I do? What's a proper defense? Can anyone help me?

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter Christopher Lomtevas
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  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Schenectady, NY
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: Youth Services cases are the most revealing as to how the law operates against the citizen. Every conceivable protection against abuses of the judiciary are flipped around and made to abuse the parent undergoing one of these cases.

First and foremost, the asker must understand there is a statutory formula that drives her case. Much like a recipe makes biscuits, there is a recipe for the conduct of a youth services proceeding (called dependency in Pennsylvania). Essentially, a child is placed under the watch of the government either by remand or by remaining with the parent (which is the exception). There is an arraignment, there are assignments of lawyers and other professionals to "investigate," and then there is an adjournment for status. There are up-front orders designed to show that a child is being protected, for example, there is an order of protection entered (called a protection from abuse order in Pennsylvania). There is an order of supervised visitation entered. There are numerous adjournments for status that eventually lead to a trial or a plea based on recommendations of youth services. Trial may never happen, and if it does, the judge will simply coerce the parent into agreeing to accept the recommendations of youth services.

These dependency proceedings are an essential education for a family court judge. In ordinary practice, cases must commence and terminate in a rather brief amount of time as guided by a court's standards and goals. To the contrary in dependency cases, adjournments are the norm because youth services can keep a child from a parent and get the parent to do anything youth services wants the parent to do. The judge learns how to weaponize adjournments. The victim parent can change one lawyer after another, but the adjournments keep on coming. Here are a few tricks judges learn.

A child can complain to her lawyer that her foster family is abusing her, but the dependency court judge can ignore these claims. The judge learns to weaponize credibility determinations. Unqualified psychologists who work for the court can make inaccurate psychological assessments, and then provide treatment for those assessments in violation of ethical prohibitions against multiple relationships. The judge learns to always interpret those assessments as against the parent. Eventually, the judge learns to make such assessements herself without the aid of a psychologist. Should the parent appeal an order, this provides more adjournments and a longer remand into foster care for the child.

Judge learn to avoid days-long trials and instead conduct trials for one hour at a time spread over months and years. As the investigation continues, the parent may make errors in parenting, may miss visits, may get caught positive for a controlled substance, and the cycle begins again: arraignments, assignment, adjournment.

The county attorney learns a few tricks. There are two parts to every dependency proceeding: the fact finding and the disposition. The county attorney uses the fact finding to build a better and stronger case against the parent, and then foist that better case during the dispositional trial. There are also immediate return hearings allowed under the law, and these allow the youth services lawyer learn the parent's case up front for which to build a better case.

Dependency is a cornucopia of perversion of the law so as to operate against good fact finding and justice. The law simply presumes every parent as being a danger to her child, and proceeds to make that guess into reality using legal process. As for this asker's case, we do not have enough information to posit a response, but given the above explanation, the asker may now have more to go on to understand what it means to have government take the lead in protecting children.

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