Child Protective Services (CPS) Attorney in Michigan
It’s one of the worst things a parent can be called—unfit. We all do our best as parents. That’s why it can be so unsettling when someone comes along and suggests we’re not doing enough. If you’re in the midst of a child protective services (CPS) investigation, you know what we’re talking about. And more than simply being unsettling, a CPS investigation can be life altering if they’re trying to take your kids away. You may feel like the deck is stacked against you. But it doesn’t need to be. A skilled and experienced attorney can ensure that your constitutional rights to the care and custody of your children are not trampled by the government.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes all too easy to find yourself on the wrong side of a CPS investigation. Often, a CPS investigation goes hand in hand with an allegation that a crime has been committed against your child not by you but by a spouse or significant other. In that instance, you may be facing a “failure to protect” allegation. Even if you feel you’re innocent of any wrongdoing, you still need to take the matter seriously.
Ostensibly, the purpose of a child protective proceeding is to protect the children rather than to punish the parent, although that’s how it can certainly feel. While most CPS workers are generally good people who just want to protect kids, they can sometimes be overzealous. We’ve seen CPS reports where having dirty dishes in the sink is counted as a strike against a parent. Yikes. We’re not trying to scare you. We just want you to know what you might be up against.
On that note, here’s a very basic overview of how these cases proceed.
The CPA Report
Although anyone is entitled to report suspected child abuse or neglect, Michigan law requires certain people—such as doctors and teachers—to make a CPS report when they have “reasonable cause” to suspect child abuse or neglect. In fact, so-called “mandatory reporters” can face criminal charges and the loss of their professional licenses if they fail to make a report when they should have. Naturally, this creates an incentive for mandatory reporters to err on the side of reporting even where the evidence may be thin or equivocal.
The CPS Investigation
After receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, CPS must begin an investigation within 24 hours. Depending on the allegation, CPS may refer the matter to law enforcement or else conduct a joint investigation with law enforcement. In most cases, the children at issue will be interviewed.
If at the end of the investigation CPS finds no evidence of child abuse or neglect, the case is closed without further action. If, however, CPS finds that there is some evidence of abuse or neglect, it has several options at its disposal. It may simply recommend services for the family, whose participation is thereafter voluntary. Or it may require that the family participate in services to rectify whatever led to the investigation. In many cases, CPS can file a petition with the family division of the local county circuit court asking the court to take jurisdiction in the case.
Petitions by CPS
In most cases, a petition by CPS requests that the court take temporary jurisdiction over the children at issue. In certain very serious cases, CPS can request termination of your parental rights in an initial petition. This can occur, for example, where it’s alleged that a parent sexually abused or severely physically abused his or her children. Thankfully, these kinds of petitions are rare.
After a petition has been presented to the court, the judge assigned to the case will make a preliminary determination on whether there’s probable cause to authorize the filing of the petition. The judge will also determine whether the children should be removed from the parents while the case is proceeding.
After a petition has been authorized, the next question is whether the court has “jurisdiction”—i.e., whether the allegations in the petition can be substantiated. Much like a criminal case, the parents may enter a plea admitting to the allegations in the petition. Parents also retain the right to a jury trial at which the allegations in the petition must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
If a parent pleads or loses at trial, the case enters the “dispositional phase.” The court has several options for what to do with the children during this phase. It may allow the parents to keep the children or it may place them elsewhere, including with a relative or in foster care.
In general, CPS must make reasonable efforts to provide services to the parents in order to remedy whatever led to the child protective proceedings in the first place. If the children have been removed, reunification is the goal. What are “services?” Depending on the case, services may include parenting classes or periodic drug testing. It depends on the individual needs of the parents and children.
The dispositional phase can last several months, during which the court conducts periodic hearings to assess the parents’ progress. Here’s the good news: the vast majority of cases end successfully with the parents reunited with their children.
Termination of Parental Rights
In a small set of cases, CPS seeks termination of parental rights, which forever severs the bond between parent and child. As mentioned above, if the allegations are especially egregious from the get-go—sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, etc.—CPS may seek termination without ever providing services. CPS can also seek termination if parents fail to comply with or sufficiently benefit from services.
Hire an Experienced CPS Attorney As Soon As Possible
If you’re being investigated by CPS or you’re already involved in child protective proceedings, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. As you can see, the process can be quite complicated and difficult to navigate. More importantly, your children are at stake. At Grabel & Associates we can help you make sure your parental rights are not terminated.
Contact us right away
If you’re facing a child protective proceeding, contact us online or call us at our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896.
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