If you believe your child is being physically or emotionally abused by their other parent, you might file a report with Child Protective Service (CPS). Doing so might seem drastic, but it is often the best way to ensure your child has a safe home both now and moving forward.
What happens after CPS is notified?
Once CPS is notified of suspected child abuse, the case will be sent to a family court for an initial proceeding. At this proceeding, the court will decide if you should have custody of your child while the case is proceeding or if your child should be placed in the care of a third party during this time.
The fact-finding hearing
Following that there will be a fact-finding hearing. At this hearing, CPS will present evidence regarding the alleged abuse. This might include photos, medical records and witness testimony. The child might testify, either in the courtroom or in the judge’s office.
The parent accused of abuse can present their own side of the story at the fact-finding hearing. They can present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and bring their own witnesses to testify.
If the court determines child abuse did not take place, the child will be returned to each parent’s care as outlined in their parenting plan.
The dispositional hearing
If the court determines at the fact-finding hearing that the child was abused or neglected, a dispositional hearing will take place. At this hearing, testimony will be presented, and investigative reports and recommendations will be reviewed.
After that, the court will decide what should be done next to ensure the child will have a safe and appropriate place to live. This decision will be based on the child’s best interests.
Children must be raised in a safe environment and cared for with love. They should not be placed in the hands of an abuser, but they also should have some sort of relationship with both parents, if appropriate.
For these reasons, the court might place the child in each parent’s care on the condition that no further neglect or abuse occurs. Alternatively, the court might limit the other parent’s parenting time to supervised visitation.
If neither of those options are in the child’s best interests, the court might issue a final order of protection that lasts until the child’s 18th birthday. This means the child will remain in your care, and the child’s other parent will be ordered to stay away from the child and their home.
Sometimes, the court will order a combination of a protective order and restricted parenting time. Any protective order should be sufficiently detailed so it can be enforced if violated.
Ultimately, it is essential that a child is safe in both parents’ care. A parent who suspects abuse or neglect might feel helpless, but they do have options. They can report the situation to CPS and cooperate with the proceedings that will result in a legal decision regarding their child’s care that is in their child’s best interests.