Many additional factors might make divorcethat much more complicated—having Child Protective Services (CPS) involved is one of them. Though CPS provides an invaluable social service to children-in-need, you will want to be well-armed with legal representation going into any meetings or mediation. Read on to learn more about:
Custody Battles and Why CPS Does Not Need to be Involved;
Your Next Steps if CPS Gets Involved; and
Keeping Touch with Your Children Post-Divorce and Post-CPS.
Custody in Divorce and CPS: The Difference in Circumstances
Child Custody is a part of divorce any couple needs to talk through when attempting to reach an agreement on what should happen to their children. Depending on how amicable the divorce is, a couple may pursue this agreement through mediation or turn to a judge to make the decision based on the facts of the divorce.
There are a few different types of custody arrangements you may pursue. Perhaps the rarest is sole custody, which gives one parent exclusive rights concerning their child or children. The extreme of this type of custody provides a parent with both legal and physical custody of their child.
What does this entail? Legal custody concerns a parent’s right to make major decisions about their child’s welfare, which may include education, health care, or matters relating to religion or moral welfare. Physical, on the other hand, pertains to supervision and residence.
Obtaining sole custody is rare because the court must determine a parent unfit for childcare for there to be a chance of it being granted. This may include observing patterns of physical or mental abuse, child neglect, mental unfitness, or excessive drug or alcohol use. These alone don’t bar the other parent from seeing their children, though; many judges build-in visitation rights to finalized divorce agreements, barring further unfitness from the other parent.
Joint custody is far more common and involves either an even split between parents or separation based on the best interests of the child. If a judge orders joint custody, chances are you will have to keep in touch with your spouse to communicate pick-up and drop-off times, among other important decisions. Built into joint custody are shared legal and physical custody rights, meaning the two of you will have the same ability to make important decisions for your child.
Now, with CPS: might a spouse use CPS to gain sole custody of your child? It’s possible. But is CPS a part of every custody case? Not usually.
CPS seeks to aid children who may be victims of abuse or neglect determined through visitation, interviews, and other case-building methods. If your divorce is amicable and you and your spouse are trusting and responsible parents, things should work. Even though CPS has some negative connotations for parents (for example, thinking they are there to take away your child forever), stay calm. If you already have a divorce lawyer, get in touch with them.
Your Spouse Called CPS. Now What?
Once CPS becomes involved in your divorce, tell your lawyer. If CPS schedules any meetings or interviews to review your fitness as a parent or how you parent, ask your lawyer to be there with you. If they hand you any papers or forms, request legal assistance from your lawyer to make sure you fill them out thoroughly and with all the most relevant information.
You want to make sure you handle the process with care. If the divorce process between you and your spouse is less than amicable (to say the least), a poorly handled CPS interview may hurt your case for child custody.
However, it is not as much of a one-sided, uphill battle as you would think. CPS looks down on spouses who claim false charges of child abuse just to tip the child custody scales in their favor. If they discover this is the case, it will seriously damage your spouse’s claim for child custody. Do not call CPS on your spouse for personal gain during a divorce case. Of course, if you believe your child is at risk of living with your spouse, make sure you can provide evidence to support your claims.
CPS halts any Child Custody hearings and deliberations if they find a case of abuse or neglect. Rather than take one parent’s side, they will place your children in foster care under emergency jurisdiction until court hearings and procedures relating to the case are finished. Though it is a tense and stressful time, make sure you are readily available with you and your lawyer’s contact information for further information regarding your CPS proceedings.
Your lawyer will reiterate this but do not make this process about you. At the center of a CPS investigation are your children, and though it may seem like they are intruding into your life, CPS is there to provide services to your children regardless of your parenting ability. Therefore, prioritize your children and be open to whatever happens; your lawyer will be by your side to fight for you.
The Future for Your Family After CPS
CPS handles all cases differently and could prescribe any type of short-or-long term fix for your situation. As we mentioned, their goal isn’t to take your children away. Instead, they focus on finding solutions to existing problems that fit the best interests of your children.
Whatever the solution, approach it openly. Be earnest in how you engage in meetings, interventions, or mediations. Remember, these are your kids. For all the stress divorce brings, your first concern coming out of it should be your family’s future.
Do not shy away from talking with your children about what’s different and how it makes them feel. If they are nervous about anything related to CPS matters, address that too. Use your own discretion when it comes to what you do and do not tell them, but show some extra care during this time; divorce can be a major transition for a child.