Suppose you have been reading through the blogs posts that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, has been posting the past few days. In that case, you will know that we highly encourage any person going through an investigation with Child Protective Services (CPS) to know their rights and how to assert them. Knowing how to do so can be the difference between a safe and happy life with your child and one where your child is removed from your care.
With that said, there is a difference between asserting your rights as a concerned parent and interfering with a legitimate investigation by CPS. It is important to note that interfering with a CPS investigation is a crime and can cause you to be arrested.
For instance, if CPS has an ongoing investigation regarding your family and you move without telling CPS about your new address, then you have committed a crime. Hiding your child is effectively the same thing. I have seen CPS go to great lengths to keep tabs on families being investigated. For instance, CPS has gone so far as to request a temporary restraining order from a judge for a family I was working with because they believed the family to pose of risk of leaving the state without notifying anyone.
Finally, if you attempt to keep CPS from transporting your child from your home to another location, then you are interfering with the investigation and have committed a crime. However, keep in mind that a court order must be in place for them to do so.
When can law enforcement get involved in your CPS case?
Law enforcement does not have to get involved with your CPS case. Just because CPS received a report of abuse or neglect of your child does not mean that you are being accused of committing a crime. However, CPS will contact law enforcement about the report(s) that it receives regarding you and your child. The key thing to understand is that CPS does not keep law enforcement on standby throughout your case. Instead, law enforcement will only involve themselves in your situation if they believe that a crime has been committed.
Examples of situations where law enforcement becomes involved in CPS cases
Suppose your case involves physical or sexual abuse or situations where you have failed to feed your child or have left your child alone for days at a time with no intent to return. In that case, law enforcement is likely to contact CPS and consider criminal charges. Your case will be investigated both by law enforcement and CPS at that time. The investigations will serve the dual purpose of collecting evidence to support a finding of abuse or neglect by CPS, and law enforcement will work to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge you with a crime.
Keep in mind that only law enforcement officers may place you under arrest. A CPS employee may show you identification that looks similar to a police badge but keep in mind CPS has no power to enter your home without your permission in most situations. If CPS comes with a police officer and has a court order approving their entrance, they may enter without your consent. Even if the police are there alone, you do not have to let them enter either unless a search warrant or court order allowing their entrance is in hand.
Allowing your child into a vehicle with CPS
As we alluded to a moment ago, CPS can transport your child from your home to another location only if you allow them to do so or if a court order is signed by a judge ordering this to be done. An exception to this rule applies if CPS believes that your child has suffered recent abuse and is at significant risk of being abused again. In that situation, CPS can pick your child up from school without your permission to take the child to a shelter or doctor’s appointment for an examination.
CPS has guidelines that it must follow in its investigations, but it is important to note that if CPS takes your child somewhere in a vehicle, that notice but be given to you by phone or in person. However, if you make it difficult for them to contact you, they can leave a note on your front door to let you know about their having taken your child to a doctor’s appointment, for example. A lot can be left up to the judgment of your CPS caseworker. If they believe that you pose a risk to your child, CPS retains the right not to tell you where your child is.
How CPS determines when it is appropriate to remove your child from your home
The quickest way for CPS to remove your child from your home is if you permit them to do so. You must verbally tell CPS that they have your blessing to do so. If you and your spouse disagree on whether or not your child can be removed from your home, then CPS cannot do so unless there is a court order in hand from a judge. I have seen parents consent to have CPS remove their child from the house when the child has been acting violently and needs mental health care.
Court order allows CPS to remove your child from your home without your permission. CPS can have one of their attorneys ask a judge in a hearing to get the authority to do so. All the reasons and evidence that is in hand at that time will be presented to a judge, and the judge will decide on whether or not removal is justified under the circumstances. CPS can permanently remove your child without a court order if the investigator believes it is an emergency where the child's failure to remove will result in immediate harm.
CPS will seek an emergency order following an emergency removal. CPS will need to justify its removal of your child by providing evidence to the judge showing why an emergency is in place. In all likelihood, CPS will get a hearing with a judge before you can hire a lawyer or attend the hearing. If the removal is justified in the judge's eyes and the order is signed, a hearing must be held within fourteen days where you can contest the evidence presented by CPS to have your child returned to your home.
On the other hand, if CPS does not believe that your child faces any immediate danger, a hearing will be scheduled at a later date which you and your attorney will be able to attend. At this hearing, the attorney for CPS will be able to present whatever evidence it has accumulated that will justify the removal of your child from your home. You will be able to counter that presentation. An order either denying the request to remove your child or an order granting CPS’ request to remove your child will be signed by the judge after this hearing.
Removal of your child requires that CPS notify you as a parent.
You are entitled to be notified within one day of CPS removing your child from your home. A CPS employee will either speak to you in person or leave you a notice of removal on your door telling you about the removal of your child. Contact information for the CPS employee, the circumstances that led to the removal, and your rights in this process will be included in the notice of removal. Contact the CPS employee immediately and find out more about the next court hearing related to your child.
Utilizing your family as a resource during a CPS case
In tomorrow’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss how you can lean on family during a CPS case and how they can help you regain possession of your child.
If you have questions on this subject or any other in Texas family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. One of our licensed family law attorneys will be honored to speak to you about your situation in a free-of-charge consultation.