I need some legal advice, please (long)

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Tim Hoover, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    I'm posting this on behalf of a friend who is at her wit's end and doesn't know what to do anymore. I'm also sure that she'd kill me if she found out I posted this on a public forum, but I'm also at a loss for more options. Anyway, here goes....

    First, some backstory: My friend J used to be a really bad drug addict and this caused her to lose her daughter to the state of TN in July of last year, placed in foster care until such time as J can regain her. J has really made an amazing turnaround in this area. She has completely kicked her drug habit and is complying fully with DCS' permanency plan to regain her daughter. Last week, DCS informed her that, due to her wonderful behavior and actions, she would regain custody of her daughter. The hearing took place last Wed and DCS made a complete recommendation for J to get her daughter back.

    During the hearing, the judge (for the first time) went against DCS's recommendation and returned the child to foster care. J's state-appointed attorney did not say one word or raise a single objection during this hearing. J's DCS caseworker was also completely baffled by this outcome. The caseworker has made a small investigation and has determined that the foster mother had somehow circumvented due process and had contacted the judge directly to interfere with the return of custody. None of this information was made available to J during the hearing. It appears that the foster mother is intent on keeping the child permanently and is pulling some strings somewhere. The foster mother has also apparently obtained J's confidential information from DCS and from J's counseling center.

    As I stated earlier, both J and I are at a complete loss for options at this point. She is calling numerous departments within DCS to find out what is going on, as well as calling the TN Attorney General's office and her Congressmen. Obviously a new attorney is needed, but J can't afford one and doesn't know how to go about getting help. I know there are quite a few lawyers and other legal-minded folk here and any advice would be extremely appreciated...
     
  2. Nathan*W

    Nathan*W Screenwriter

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    I AM NOT A LAWYER

    She should call the ACLU. They love this kind of stuff. Also, contact the local lawyer's Assoc. to see if they have any recommendations on a Pro-Bono representation. If there was legal impropriety on the part of the judge, she should contact the ABA or the appropriate government official and tell them.

    If she hasn't already, she should start keeping all records of conversations and documents.
     
  3. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Also consider contacting your/her congressman. If that's really the way things went down then that's just terrible. See if some friends can get together and pay for a good lawyer if needed. But definitely check with the ACLU as mentioned above.
     
  4. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    Thanks for all the advice. She left a message w/ the ACLU, after which they will listen to her message and decide if they want to intervene. In addition, she has contacted the TN Bar Assoc., the TN Attorney General, and both her Senators. My lawyer has also called me back with some referrals.

    If all this doesn't pan out, there's always the media. They love human interest stories like this [​IMG]
     
  5. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    This is a local/state matter, so try contacting your state representative and state senator. They typically have little to do (State Leg is a part-time job), so they'll probably be more responsive than your congressman and senators. Also try the Governor's office.
     
  6. Steve Ridges

    Steve Ridges Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion but whats best for the child? I have a hard time believing that someone who was so screwed up that they lost their kid in the first place will be a "Super Star" mom. Also, your post makes no mention of a father.

    What if the foster family is stable, loving, and capable of providing a better life for the child? What if there is a loving mother AND father? What about siblings? It's a tough call to make and I've heard stories of foster families being horrible as well. I just hope the welfare of the child is the focus instead of the whim of a recovering addict.
     
  7. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    While I would not put things in quite the same way Steve just did I'd like to share some of my own experience regarding addiction, having been there myself.

    I am what's called a "high bottom" drunk. I didn't lose my job, house, or car, nor had I had any drunk driving arrests, nothing even close to having a kid taken away.

    I now have over 20 years of continous freedom from drugs and alcohol. Despite the "high bottom" nature of my particular case I was no way near recovered enough to make a life change as drastic as taking on the care of a child when I had less than one year of sobriety, my outward appearance notwithstanding.

    Conventional wisdom among most successfully recovering addicts/alcoholics is to if possible avoid major life changes in the first year of sobriety--no new relationships, jobs, etc. One can look really good on the outside and still not be solidly ready for new responsibilities on the inside.

    I saw a movie dealing with recovery once in which newly recovering people were advised on release from their treatment programs to first get a pet. If the pet is alive after a year, then pursue a relationship or make some other large life change. I couldn't agree more with the spirit of this advice. The stress of major life changes taken on too soon is one of the primary causes of slipping back into addiction--I've seen it way too many times among newly recovering people.

    I know you have a lot of sympathy with J's plight, but unless you're well versed in the ups and downs of recovery you may not be in the best position to judge what's really best for her and her child. Also keep in mind that addicts/alcoholics are very well versed in how to evoke sympathy and caring from well meaning people, we know how to get people on our side, whether that side is really good for us or not, and patience is definitely not one of our virtues.

    As long as no permanent decision has been made to keep the child out of J's custody, there is still time to let her become more solid in her recovery before again taking on the responsibility of raising a child.
     
  8. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    Seth, I wish I had more info, but I don't. Something about the caseworker is beginning to disturb me a great deal. Something is not right at all...
     
  9. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Tim, Thanks for clarification and also thanks for not taking offense at my post.

    Does the foster mother have any natural or legally adopted children of her own? If not it may be that she's just desperate to have a kid and thinks she can keep J's?
     
  10. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    Steve, the foster mother has 3 children of her own. In fact, J's daughter is living in a house w/ 4 children total, 2 adults, and about a half-dozen cats. I think that might explain the constant sickness...



    This is the thing that is really worrying J, and myself to be honest. It seems to us that J's rights are being completely trampled upon by not allowing her to defend herself. It seems the court has already decided that J won't ever be a fit parent...

    There's also an interesting new development today: J has been assigned a new caseworker for some reason...
     

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