The time date and place for the final hearing or trial will be set well in advance but must be set no later than the first Monday after the one year anniversary of DFPS being named as Temporary Managing Conservator of your child. If the child has not been returned to a parent in a "return and monitor" and the court does not find extraordinary circumstances for granting an extension of the one-year deadline:
- a final hearing or trial must begin, or
- a final order regarding termination of parental rights, conservatorship, must be signed, or
- the case must be dismissed.
At the final hearing or trial a judge or jury will decide whether or not the child should be returned to a parent, or whether a parent’s rights should be restricted or terminated.
In certain circumstances the court may grant a one-time extension of the one year deadline for no more than 180 days. The court must find “extraordinary circumstances” to grant an extension. If the court determines an extension is necessary, a new temporary order must be issued.
Texas law prohibits parties from agreeing to extend the case beyond the 180 day extension granted by the judge. At the end of the extended deadline the following may occur:
- an agreed order for conservatorship or termination of parental rights shall be entered by the court;
- the child shall be returned to a parent in a monitored return;
- a final hearing or trial shall be heard; or
- the case must be dismissed.
If the court believes that a child may be returned to a parent safely, the court will often order a monitored return of the child. If the court orders a monitored return, a new deadline of 180 days from when the court ordered the return will be set. Under a monitored return, DFPS maintains temporary custody of the child but the child is placed with a parent. Monitored returns are ordered in an effort to allow a parent and child to readjust to living with each other and ensure that safety concerns do not redevelop.
If the monitored return is not successful, the child may be removed from the parent again. If a child is removed from a parent during a return and monitor, and the court agrees with the removal, the court will issue a dismissal date of either the original one year dismissal date, or 180 days from the date the child was re-removed from the parent, whichever is later. If a child is removed from a parent during a monitored return the case will most likely be set for a final hearing or trial.
A parent may request that the court order an extension of the one year deadline or a monitored return even if all parties are not in agreement. If DFPS removes a child from a parent during a monitored return, a parent may also contest DFPS’s decision to remove the child and request a hearing before the court to address the issue.
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