How do I better understand my abuse or neglect case?
Why are you in court?You are in court because a complaint about your child’s care has been filed in the Family Court. The complaint asks the court to decide if your child has been neglected and/or abused and who will have custody of your child.
- Your case is a child neglect case. The purpose of child neglect cases is to protect neglected and abused children. They are not criminal cases, but separate criminal cases are sometimes filed.
- Because of deadlines for parents, you should start working with your lawyer right away to help you meet your goals for your child’s custody.
Who will be involved in my case?
Your Lawyer:You will get a lawyer on the first day your case is in court. You must have a financial eligibility interview in the Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect Office (CCAN) in Room 4415 on the fourth floor of the courthouse to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer. The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Government Lawyer:The Assistant Attorney General (AAG) is the lawyer for the District of Columbia government. The AAG presents evidence in support of the claim that your child is abused or neglected. You should not speak with the AAG without your attorney present.
Your Child's Guardian Ad Litem:The Court appoints a guardian ad litem for your child that will help your child understand what is happening in the case and tell the judge what he\she believes your child wants and what is best for your child. Talk to your lawyer about what you can discuss with the guardian ad litem.
The Social Worker:Part of the social worker’s job is to provide services to you and your child and to help you and your family. The social worker also tells the court what he or she thinks should happen in your case and where your child should live.
The Judge:Your case will be assigned to a Family Court judge before the first hearing. This judge will usually handle your case until it is completed. The judge makes decisions in your case based on the law and the evidence he or she hears. Although the judge listens to everyone’s input, the judge makes the final decision.
8 Steps to Help You Reunify With Your Child:
- Get treatment or other help the court requires NOW – DON’T DELAY
- Make your child your top priority
- Visit your child as often as the court allows – don’t miss a visit
- If you have to miss a visit call your social worker in advance
- Go to every court hearing
- Call your lawyer and social worker every week - leave a message if they are out
- Follow all the court orders
- Keep a journal of important dates