What if I am contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS) about my child(ren)’s well-being during my divorce or separation?

Child Protective Services begins an investigation when someone (e.g., your spouse, other relative,  neighbor, or professional person) makes a complaint that your child is being neglected or abused. Many states require teachers, physicians, counselors and social workers to report any concerns that a child may be mistreated.

Q: Can I find out who has made the report?

A: No. Child Protective Services cannot release the name of the person who reports the claim. This rule is in place to encourage people to make these reports, to allow Child Protective Services to determine if the concern is valid and a child needs to be protected.

Q: What happens next?

A: Child Protective Services will assign a case worker to investigate the claims of abuse or neglect.

Q: What will happen during an investigation?

A: The case worker will interview the parents, the child(ren)- usually at school or
another place away from the home. Other persons, including teachers, doctors, or others with information about the child may be interviewed as well.

Q: Do I have to cooperate during the investigation?

A: No; however, your refusal to cooperate may make it more likely that a finding of
neglect or abuse will be made.

Q: Should I have an attorney represent me during the investigation?

A: If you have already engaged an attorney to represent you during a custody case or other family law action, you should notify your attorney immediately to indicate that you have been contacted by Child Protective Services. Your attorney may want to be present during your interview.

Q: How long will the investigation take?

A: There is no easy answer to this question. The investigation may take days or weeks to be completed.

Q: How will I know when the investigation is completed?

A: You will receive a letter from Child Protective Services indicating either that the
abuse or neglect has been substantiated, or that it has not been substantiated.

Q: What happens then?

A: If the claim is NOT substantiated, CPS may still require you to participate in some kind of counseling or other services.
If the claim IS substantiated, then CPS will determine the level of risk to the child if the child remains in your home. If the risk is fairly low, CPS may refer you to parenting classes or counseling, but your child may remain in your home. On the other hand, if CPS determines that the risk to your child is high, they may enter a protective order setting out conditions for your child to remain at home (such as prohibiting physical discipline, mandating drug screening, or prohibiting contact with the person who may be causing harm to the child.)

Complying with the protective order may allow your child to stay in the home rather than risk removal from home.

Q: What is the worst case scenario?

A: If the protective order is not complied with, or in very serious cases, the CPS agency may file a petition with the Court and a hearing will be held to determine the final outcome. Further, the District Attorney’s office may bring criminal charges against a perpetrator of violence or sexual assault.