Dealing with DHR, Part 2 – Can DHR come in my home?
disclaimer: This article discusses general information and should in no way be considered legal advice. This is surgery. Don’t act on anything here without speaking to a lawyer, and preferably a specialist in the field of Child Custody.
With that out of the way. If they’re asking permission, then the answer is probably “no.” DHR, just like the police or fire department, can come in your home without a court order or warrant under certain circumstances whether you give permission or not. Those circumstances, as you might imagine, are pretty serious. Thus, if a DHR worker shows up at your home, without law enforcement in tow, without a court order or warrant, and takes the time and energy to discuss with you whether they have your permission to come in, then he or she is unlikely to disturb the peace and barge on in regardless of what you say.
(Generally speaking, this article discusses “home visits” by DHR before all parties are participating in active Court proceedings, or perhaps early in those proceedings. None of this discussion applies to situations in which there are lawful Court orders directing the actions of individuals and Government Organizations.)
Refusing to allow DHR to come in your home, and otherwise refusing to comply with a DHR investigation short of a Court Order, is not without risks. As they say in business, there is no profit without risk. Not giving permission for DHR to search your home is two things: (1) a principled stance against intrusion into your family’s privacy and (2) a long-term strategy in your case. It is not a guaranty against short‑term setbacks in your quest to hold your family together and get the government out of your hair.
Think of it this way, if someone gets pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, they have the right to refuse to “blow.” This does not mean that person won’t get their license suspended or that they won’t get arrested, i.e., a short-term deprivation of your freedom and autonomy. It does mean you’re not possibly handing the State a bunch of evidence they’re not entitled to get at this point unless you give them permission to continue their fishing expedition and come into your home.
How this can play out is that if you don’t give DHR permission to do what they want to do they might tell you they’ll pick up your kids anyways. If DHR takes your children without your permission or any sort of Agreement, (typically called a “Safety Plan,” which we’ll discuss in a later article), then they will be acting on some pretty serious information. The key, though, is that, if you stand your ground, DHR will have to prove the information they’re acting on. If you stand your ground, they’ll have to prove it sooner rather than later at what’s called a “Shelter Care” hearing, which must take place within 72 hours of the kids being picked up.*
*Note: Again, these are bold strategies based on principles of freedom and thinking long-term. The tools implemented are application of complex laws, procedures and rules of evidence. This is a high-wire act and one which should absolutely not be performed without the guidance and advocacy of a specialized Child Custody lawyer intimately familiar with the Juvenile Court system and the policies, processes and regulations of DHR.
the adversarial system
I quote Proverbs 27:17 and mention “iron on iron” when discussing issues like this. The Court system, not to mention our entire system of government, is built on the principles of separation of powers, accountability, and the adversarial system.
Some would like you to believe that cooperation is key to figuring out what’s best. Be careful. Cooperation, to someone else, might mean going along with whatever someone else says. Someone who is doing more talking than listening, more directing than learning, and dropping cooperation like some buzzword every time someone disagrees with them may not be truly seeking the cooperation they espouse.
I agree on the benefits of cooperation only to the extent that we should all cooperate in committed, respectful participation in the litigation process under the laws and constitutions of the State of Alabama and the United States of America. Freedom, privacy and autonomy should be respected. Information should be disclosed through fair procedures under strict Court supervision.
Doing anything less is to let the Other Side off the hook, and, in my opinion, dumb down and circumvent a complex, demanding system that really is built to find the truth, protect the freedom and privacy of Americans, and serve the best interests of children.
But, this makes everything harder for everyone to do their jobs, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it be pretty damn hard to take away your kids? Think of it how you like, I just think it makes everyone better, just like the Good Book says. This applies especially to our team at Foxtrot and to our clients. We know that if we test the acts and evidence of other stakeholders then we are going to be tested ourselves. We’re going to have be ready and we will be.
Get the full name of the DHR worker – you might think this obvious, but in the stress of the situation, it’s completely understandable that you either won’t get the name, won’t catch it, or won’t remember. But remember, this is a person investigating your family and who stands ready and willing to pick up your children if he or she deems it necessary. Think this is someone who you and your lawyer need to be able to identify and that your lawyer needs to be able to contact and or subpoena and or whatever else? You bet.
Tell the worker you need to talk to your lawyer – “But, I don’t have a lawyer.” Go to Avvo.com and pick a name to say.It doesn’t matter in the moment and it won’t matter if the lawyer you end up hiring is someone different. If the worker asks who your lawyer is do not refuse to give a name and think you’re being sneaky. DHR, like my colleagues and I, are trained to know that someone who won’t tell you the name of their lawyer most likely doesn’t have one.***If you’d like to learn more about how Foxtrot can help you and how you can redirect all inquiries from DHR to our team that specializes in Child Custody, you can book your initial consultation at www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/ . If you end up hiring us, I assure you no one will have to wonder who your lawyer is.
When in doubt about what to do, don’t answer the door – there are so many applications and parallels here I’m laughing out loud writing this. There’s no law saying you’ve got to stop whatever you’re doing and answer the door. There’s no law when your angry ex calls that you have to answer. There’s no law when someone talks mess on Facebook you have to lose your mind. If they’ve got info that something dead serious is going on, DHR won’t need your help to open the door for them.
When in doubt, don’t talk to DHR – anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law, but now we’re talking about your kids. I am literally a professional at having difficult conversations with DHR and they aren’t even close to easy for me. I sit around thinking, reading, and writing about this stuff all day because I know I’ve got more to learn and get better. What chances do you think you have of not screwing something up?
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting on these materials. Thanks for remembering that this information is general in nature regarding applicable, public laws and regulations in Alabama and are not to be construed as legal advice regarding your specific situation. If you would like specific guidance for your situation please contact our office at 256-213-1694 or visit www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/ to book an initial consultation at one of our offices in North Alabama.