When you learn that Child Protective Services (CPS) is investigating your family, your first response might be anxiety or fear. That’s understandable. No one wants to have their children taken away — even temporarily. And, you certainly don’t want to lose your parental rights or custody of your child.
I know it can be a scary situation. Once you have a moment to process what’s happening, it’s time to take immediate action to start building a CPS defense. I will help you unpack what to do if CPS is investigating you.
Need immediate assistance forming your CPS defense? Contact my offices immediately!
Start By Asking Questions About the CPS Investigation
Whenever someone reports child abuse or neglect, CPS is legally required to open an investigation. It’s important to remember that anyone can report child abuse or neglect — a neighbor, teacher, grandparent, or ex-spouse. Then, some individuals are mandatory reporters, meaning if they even suspect something is wrong, they are obligated to file a report.
When CPS comes knocking on your door, you can take appropriate steps to understand why CPS is investigating you. The CPS investigator cannot tell you who made the abuse or neglect allegation. However, they can and should tell you what the allegations are and what the report said. If anything is unclear, ask for more details.
Ask questions, but don’t react aggressively, no matter how troubling the allegations against you are. The investigator could take your reaction as evidence that your child isn’t safe around you. Stay calm and focus on finding out information, not expressing your anger.
Talk to Your Children About the CPS Investigation
Another important step is to talk to your children about what’s going on. The entire process is frightening for them, too. Discuss the reality of the situation, and explain what’s happening.
Do not discuss with your child(ren) what to say or how to act. CPS investigators are trained to recognize when a child is being coached by a parent or guardian to respond a certain way.
Just keep in mind that, unless they have a Court order that states otherwise, the CPS investigator needs your consent to speak to or question your child(ren) while they are in your home. However, the investigator is more likely to question your child(ren) at their daycare or school without your consent and outside of your presence.
The CPS investigator may also want to have a physical or psychiatric examination of your child conducted. If you’re available, they’ll ask you. Unless there is a Court order mandating the examination, you can politely decline to participate in the examination. If you do decline their request, they may pursue a court order to perform the exam.
If this happens, tell your child what to expect, and assure them that they can ask to have another adult in the room during the exam to help them feel safe. Physical examinations, particularly ones looking for signs of sexual or physical abuse, can be traumatic. Do your best to support and comfort your child during this process.
Know Your Rights During a CPS Investigation
The most important thing you should know is that, in most cases, CPS cannot take your child from your home without a court order. (This usually only occurs in extreme cases. Even if you completely disagree with a court decision, never disobey a court order, as CPS may use your actions as a reason to terminate your parental rights.)
CPS investigators do not have to notify you before they arrive at your home to take your child. However, you don’t have to let them in, even if a police officer accompanies him or her. The exception to this rule is if the police officer has a court order to enter your home or if the investigator believes that your child is in immediate severe danger. If that’s the case, he or she can enter your home but only to remove the child.
Finally, you can refuse to sign a form giving the CPS investigator assigned to your case the right to view you or your child’s medical and mental health records. Once again, a court order may overturn your decision, though.
Those are a few of your parental rights to keep in mind. I understand that CPS investigations are confusing to navigate, and no one will be going out of their way to help you. That leads me to the final point of seeking immediate legal support from a qualified family law attorney.
Seek Legal Support if CPS is Investigating You
CPS might be investigating you, but you are not the subject of a lawsuit. On the one hand, that’s good news. On the other, it means you won’t have access to a court-appointed attorney. However, you still have the right to seek outside legal counsel, and you should.
Don’t worry about looking like you have something to hide if you work with a family law attorney. Family law is complicated, and CPS is looking to prove that you have abused or neglected your child. They’re not going to sit down and explain things to you, and they’re not on your side. You deserve the support of someone in your corner who understands the intricacies of defending against CPS.
You should get in touch with my office right away. As a family law attorney, I help families in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County form the strongest possible CPS legal defense.
I have years of experience defending families against CPS investigations, and I am dedicated to protecting you and your children. From filing the right paperwork to knowing how to help you answer questions from CPS, I am here to help.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to further discuss what to do if CPS is investigating you. I will help you get started on your legal defense to protect your parental rights!