For Serious Connecticut DCF Cases:

Atty. Michael H. Agranoff

101 West Shore Road

Ellington, CT 06029

Tel: 860-872-1024

Fax: 860-871-1015

EM: AttyMikeA@agranofflaw.com

 

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) is an extremely powerful agency that is a mystery to most people. It is necessary to understand that:

DCF is not a child welfare agency.

DCF is a child protection agency.

And that means that DCF sometimes becomes a child removal agency.

DCF has many ways to enter your life, including:

Investigations and home visits

Pressuring you into signing Safety Plans

Placing you on the Child Abuse/Neglect Registry

Summoning you into Juvenile Court, on a petition alleging that your kids are abused, neglected, or uncared-for.

 

However, the major weapon in DCF’s arsenal is the Order of Temporary Custody, or OTC.

The OTC starts with a 96-hour-hold, which requires only the approval of a DCF manager. The 96-hour-hold removes your kids for a maximum of four days.

However, before the four days are over, DCF invariably files a motion for an OTC in Court, submitting a sworn affidavit of its version of the facts. The Judge almost always signs the OTC, and then you get a court hearing to tell your side.

In the vast majority of cases, the OTC is sustained by the Court. Thus, your kids are taken by the State.

You then have to fight to get your kids back, before DCF files its ultimate sanction: the Termination of Parental Rights petition, or TPR.

 

OTC and TPR fights are difficult battles:

These are not criminal cases. Therefore, parents do not have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers at a public trial. They do not ordinarily have the right of habeas corpus.

These are not ordinary civil cases. Therefore, the rules of evidence are relaxed, meaning that hearsay evidence can often be used against parents. Pretrial discovery is very limited.

The odds are further stacked against parents. DCF is a huge state bureaucracy, with thousands of social workers, hundreds of contractors dependent upon DCF for revenue, and dozens of well-paid and well-benefited state lawyers, called Assistant Attorneys General (AAG’s). In contrast, court-appointed DCF defense lawyers are poorly paid and receive no state benefits.

Since the emotional issue of child protection is involved, many Judges understandably err on the side of caution.

 

If your kids have been taken, or if DCF has called upon you for any reason, you may wish to consider retaining a private lawyer who is skilled and experienced in DCF defense. If you already have a lawyer, you may wish to get a second opinion.

DCF may tell you that things will be easier if you simply do what they say and don’t call a lawyer. That is too ridiculous for words, but some people fall for it; to their eventual regret.

Whatever you do, PLEASE: do not ask social workers for legal advice, or listen to well-meaning amateurs. That is suicide.

 

 

When DCF Files An OTC

When your kids are taken on an OTC, it is time to stop talking to DCF and time to get a lawyer. No amount of arguing with the social worker will reverse the OTC. It is not like being investigated by the police, and trying to convince the detective that you have a good alibi and are innocent. When an OTC is filed, DCF pulls out all the stops.

It is important to understand that OTC’s and TPR’s are not like criminal and ordinary civil cases. Unless you have a lawyer who is experienced with the ins-and-outs of DCF, knows all their tricks, and is fluent in Juvenile Court motion practice, you will be at a severe disadvantage against the AAG.

DCF defense law is quite different from criminal law or family (divorce) law. The procedures are different, the standards of proof are different, the rules of evidence are different, and the motions are different.

BE CLEAR: When your kids are taken, the burden is on you to get them back. Unless you are willing to listen to your lawyer, the task will be much more difficult, if not impossible. If your goal is to argue or vent, rather than do what is necessary to reunify your family, then you are wasting your money by hiring a private lawyer.

OTC is serious business. It may lead to TPR, and the permanent loss of your kids.

 

Even without an OTC, DCF can make your life miserable. It is a secretive agency, used to getting its way, and has very little oversight from the State Legislature.

We also offer brief initial consultations at reasonable rates. These help you to determine your legal rights, and help you to chart your course of action in dealing with DCF.

Atty. Michael H. Agranoff

Atty. Michael H. Agranoff graduated the UConn Law School, magna cum laude, in 1988. In 1991, he began working as a DCF defense lawyer. His career has involved all aspects of DCF defense: investigations; home visits; substantiations; registry; voluntary services; abuse/neglect petitions; relative placements; foster parent issues; visitation; OTC’s; and TPR’s. He has represented hundreds of parents, grandparents, and other adult relatives in Juvenile Court. In earlier days, he also represented children in the DCF system.

Agranoff set several standards in DCF defense, including:

Regularly attending home visits, to help parents deal effectively with DCF investigations;

Ensuring, with the support of then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, that court-appointed psychologists were truly independent, and no longer paid and reviewed by DCF;

Challenging DCF positions with frequent motions in court, at a time when many lawyers simply hoped for the best;

Providing detailed advice to prepare clients who are ordered to participate in psychological evaluations;

Advising criminal and family lawyers, in related cases, on how to deal with DCF.

His prior web site has been frequently adopted by DCF defense lawyers throughout the state. As more than one social worker put it, “Agranoff is the only lawyer that we are afraid of.”

 

 

On October 28, 2016, at the age of 74, Agranoff closed his main office. He was unable to find a suitable and willing associate to continue his DCF defense practice under his direction. Sadly, many young lawyers today are not dedicated to family rights, but prefer the security and benefits of State employment.

Agranoff is now available, as a solo practitioner, to help adults who are involved with DCF. He is also available for second opinions.

He offers the same dedication that he showed in 25 years as a full-service DCF defense lawyer, but generally restricts his practice to serious cases in Tolland and Windham Counties. However, other areas may be considered in appropriate circumstances.

 

Agranoff is also willing to assist lawyers who do not concentrate in DCF defense and need help in this area. This has proven extremely successful in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: This web site does not constitute legal advice, and is not intended as a substitute for personally consulting a licensed Connecticut attorney. Transmission and receipt of this information does NOT create or constitute an attorney-client relationship.