Why does it cost so much to defend child abuse allegations?

As experienced Grand Rapids child abuse attorneys, we know that child abuse cases, when properly defended, can be some of the costliest cases for which to hire competent attorneys. We frequently consult with parents who are defending against cases of child abuse who are unhappy with the performance of their current attorneys. Generally speaking, a big part of the dissatisfaction with the attorneys arises out of the fee that they are being paid to handle the case.

In cases where parents are being defended by court-appointed attorneys, the attorneys are frequently being paid by the court either on a flat fee basis or at an extremely low hourly rate. It would be natural for some of these pay arrangements to tend to encourage court-appointed attorneys to spend as little time on the parent’s case as possible.

In cases where parents have retained an attorney for a relatively small fee, say $5,000, this amount represents to the attorney a fraction of the money that they must generate in their practice just to keep their law firm operating during that month, let alone take home any profit for themselves. Child abuse cases frequently take six months or more to resolve or get to trial. This means that over time, an attorney who does not take an adequate fee for a case then needs to chase after new business rather than devote their time to your case.

While every child abuse case is different and has different factors, each and every case is critically important to the parents and children who are involved. They are often complicated by the fact that parents are often defending themselves against two separate cases – criminal cases brought by the prosecuting attorney, and child protective proceedings brought by Child Protective Services (CPS).

In the criminal case, parents are facing potential penalties such as jail or prison, while in the child protective proceeding, they are facing either temporary or permanent loss of their parental rights. It is necessary, when facing these cases on both fronts, to have an attorney with experience in managing the interplay between the two cases. For example, the child protective proceeding is a civil case in which a parent can be forced to testify. This can negatively impact the criminal case, where a parent cannot be forced to testify. On the other hand, there can be opportunities for discovery of helpful material from the government in the child protective proceeding that may not be available to a defendant in a criminal case. It is important to have a lawyer who can take advantage of that benefit.

Both cases, if they are properly defended, require the parents to request a jury trial. However, being forced to run and prepare for two separate jury trials can impact the cost of a case in a huge way.

Also impacting the costs of child abuse cases is that they frequently require the services of experts. For example, if there are injuries to a child, a doctor may be required to testify regarding the mechanism of injury. If there are psychological issues involved, a forensic psychologist may make or break a case. Undoubtedly, if there are issues in the case that involve experts, the government will be presenting an expert of their own to a jury. In order to successfully counter their expert, it will be necessary to present one of your own.

Finally, in order to truly understand your story, and your family’s story, which is critical to your defense, your attorney needs to spend time with you. A handful of meetings is not going to prepare your attorney to present your side of the story to a jury, at least not successfully. The attorney needs to gain an understanding of the dynamic of your family, your history, your personality, and what happened in the alleged incident. Gathering all of the relevant information regarding a case takes diligence and time.

Facing criminal charges of child abuse and also potentially losing your parental rights can be the single most stressful event that you will ever experience. It causes parents to feel incredible fear, and can have a collateral impact on their relationships and employment. When you are facing this situation, you need to have someone on your side with whom you can have regular contact and can guide you to the best result. It is easy to succumb to the pressure that is applied by the government when you are in such a vulnerable position; however, that is something that many people often regret. If you have the right attorney and advocate on your side, you can challenge the government and win.

If you are charged criminally with child abuse or are facing loss of your parental rights in a child protective proceeding, contact the Grand Rapids child abuse attorneys at Blanchard Law at (616) 773-2945 for a consultation.

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