Occasionally, I receive calls from a parent who has been contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS) due to something that the other parent has done. CPS is alleging that the other parent has either abused or neglected the child (or children) and they have begun an investigation. The abuse or neglect is frequently due to drug or alcohol abuse, or family violence. The parent that is not the source of the investigation is frequently referred to as the “non-offending parent.”
The non-offending parent should not make the mistake of assuming everything will go smoothly for them due to the fact they have done nothing wrong. This can be a costly assumption. If the parent does not get involved in the case, his or her rights regarding the children can be at risk!
First of all, the non-offending parent should keep in contact with CPS and the caseworker assigned to the case. Let the caseworker know that you want the children to live with you. A non-offending parent has the right to have the children placed in their care unless it is determined that it is not in the best interest of the children. If you are not living with the other parent that is the cause of the investigation, CPS may be willing to allow the children to live with you during the case. However, if you are married to or live with the other parent, CPS may take the position that you failed to protect the children from the abuse or neglect, and therefore are no longer considered to be a non-offending parent.
Even if CPS allows the children to live with you, there may still be requirements placed on you by CPS or the court, if a court case has been filed, such as a service plan or certain other restrictions. This can be frustrating, particularly if you are not the reason for the CPS involvement. You may also be required to deny the other parent access to the children, which can be difficult emotionally. While you need to cooperate with CPS, and complete the requirements asked of you by CPS, remember that anything that you tell the CPS caseworker can be used against you or the other parent. It is crucial that you seek the advice of an attorney with experience dealing with CPS. A non-offending parent has legal rights during the case. Having an experienced attorney by your side to lead you through the process during this emotional time can make all the difference in your children’s future.