Should I Cooperate with CPS Even if I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong?23 Aug 2022, by Child Custody, Family Law in
Written by Timothy Czekaj
You will likely be inundated with emotions if Child Protective Services shows up at your door. Even a call from CPS can create anxiety about what will happen next because you know a caseworker doesn’t decide to start an investigation for no reason. Someone made a report.
Now you must face the situation head-on. You shouldn’t tackle this alone. If CPS contacts you, immediately call a family law attorney who can offer legal advice and guidance.
Why Would CPS Investigate My Family?
CPS investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. Anyone can report to CPS about a child or family, including friends, family members, and even another parent holding a grudge or wanting to get evidence against you.
Some professions like teachers and medical providers are mandatory reporters. They are required to report suspected abuse and neglect to CPS.
It’s important to remember that even if CPS contacts you, that doesn’t mean they will find that you have abused or neglected your child. Many reports are unsubstantiated and do not go past an evaluation or initial investigation stage.
How Long Do Investigations Last?
The total length of a CPS investigation can take a few months or even an entire year, depending on how much information must be gathered and evaluated. Many factors are considered before determining if allegations of abuse or neglect are founded, unfounded, or inconclusive.
When someone makes a report of potential abuse or neglect, CPS evaluates the seriousness of the situation. This happens very quickly. If a child is believed to be in immediate danger, an investigation may begin within 24 to 48 hours. If there is no allegation of immediate threat, the state may wait up to 90 days to open an investigation.
If your child is determined to be in immediate danger, they will quickly be removed from the home. However, a child may not be removed from a family home without a court order. If a child is removed, they may be placed with another family or with someone in the state foster system. This placement is generally temporary, pending the outcome of the CPS investigation.
CPS will continue with the investigation by talking to your child, their caregivers, teachers, medical providers, and anyone else in their life. They may know about the allegations of abuse or neglect. They will also gather evidence such as medical records, pictures of bruises, and any other information that may assist them in deciding on your case.
When the CPS caseworker finalizes their investigation, they will write a report that includes all the information they considered. They will also determine if the allegations of abuse and neglect were founded, unfounded, or inconclusive.
How Are Court Cases Affected by CPS Investigations?
CPS must notify both parents that an investigation has been opened. If you are in the middle of a domestic relations case, including divorce, child custody, child support, visitation, or other matters, your CPS investigation will likely be brought up. Working with a knowledgeable child custody lawyer who can help you navigate a legal case involving CPS is essential.
If the report of abuse or neglect is founded, it will likely significantly impact your domestic relations case. It can be used as evidence in a child custody or visitation case. However, if the CPS investigation is unfounded, and you know that the other party filed a false report, you can also use that information in your domestic relations case.
What Should I Do When CPS Arrives?
If CPS calls you or arrives at your door, you should be polite to them and cooperate as much as possible. Lack of cooperation and open communication can aggravate the allegations against you. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
You should take the CPS caseworker’s contact information and collect as much information as possible about the allegations against you. Reports of abuse and neglect are often made anonymously, but if you are embroiled in a heated domestic case, you may have an idea of who made the report. Ask the caseworker if you can record your conversation with them on the phone. Then, call an attorney to understand your rights and obligations in the CPS investigation.
Should I Let Them In?
You should not allow CPS into your home without first talking to a lawyer. The caseworker is trying to build a case against you. They are specifically looking for evidence to support claims of abuse and neglect. You may have items in your home that are not meant to be harmful; however, their purpose may be mistaken by a caseworker who does not have context. Your CPS investigation lawyer can work with you to prepare your home for an initial visit.
Can a CPS Representative Lie to Me?
Many CPS workers are aggressive in their pursuit of “justice.” They may genuinely believe your child has been abused or neglected and may be willing to do or say anything to protect them. That includes telling lies to you or in official reports. While this is not supposed to happen, it is not as uncommon as you think.
That’s why working with an attorney when CPS contacts you is crucial. Record their statements, keep copies of caseworkers’ notes and correspondence with you, and provide that information to your attorney.
What Happens if The Allegations Were False?
Many allegations of child abuse and neglect are unfounded. Suppose your CPS investigation determines that you did not abuse or neglect your child. In that case, you have a right to petition CPS to provide information about the person who made the allegations against you. That person can be held accountable for knowingly providing false information about child abuse and neglect. You can also request that CPS destroy records of the investigation if it was unfounded.
Even if you were falsely accused, you might face negative consequences like a hit to your reputation. Your neighbors, friends, and family may find out about the investigation. If you are being harassed by someone making repeated CPS reports, such as your child’s other parent, they may face criminal consequences and must pay for your legal fees and other damages.
Turn to Czekaj Law, LLC for Help with Your CPS Allegation
If CPS has contacted you, you should immediately contact a lawyer. CPS is a government agency; however, they are not necessarily on your side. Having a family lawyer by your side is essential to protect your rights.