How To Get a CPS Case Dismissed: 5 Tips for Lawyers

Updated December 14, 2023
13 min read
How To Get a CPS Case Dismissed: 5 Tips for Lawyers

Introduction

Little did parents Melissa and Dillon know, but when their five-month-old Mason Bright fell and hit his head, this would be the start of a three-month legal battle to keep their family together. Despite the fall being an accident, and even with medical findings of a clotting disorder, which may be confused as evidence of abuse, Mason and his five-year-old sister were taken away from their parents and brought into foster care. 

A false allegation of child abuse or neglect can cause trauma, undue harm to families, and adverse effects on the children’s emotional and mental stability. These false allegations also overburden the foster system, wasting state and federal resources that could have been directed toward children who genuinely need help. Suppose you are a defense attorney with a parent or guardian dealing with Child Protective Services (CPS). In that case, it is in your client’s best interests to have the case dismissed as soon as possible.

In this article, we will explain how CPS cases are initiated, what parents can expect from a CPS case, and five tips on how to get a CPS case closed.

Everything You Need To Know About Child Protective Services

What is the CPS?

Child Protective Services (CPS) is the state government agency investigating child abuse or neglect reports. Depending on the state, it may be known under a different name, such as the Department of Youth and Family Services, Department of Family Services, or Department of Social Services, to name a few. CPS (or the associated Department) is usually represented by the state Attorney General’s office.

How is a CPS case initiated?

As soon as it receives a child abuse or neglect report, CPS will evaluate the allegations’ seriousness. The report will include details of the child’s situation, conditions in the child’s home, the nature and extent of the child’s injuries, and information about other children in the same environment.

Reports of sexual abuse or severe physical injury are usually referred directly to the police. Otherwise, the CPS will evaluate whether the report is reasonable and requires further investigation, or an official CPS case will be initiated. 

For instance, if the complaint was previously investigated and has no basis, or if the allegations do not constitute neglect, CPS may reject the complaint and will not initiate a case. However, if CPS finds that the report provides enough reason to believe that the reported facts are likely to constitute abuse, CPS may start its investigation.

Upon assessment of the urgency of the report, and depending on state laws, an investigation will typically begin:

  • Within 24-48 hours in cases of immediate danger; or

  • Within 30-90 days if the immediate threat is not present.

CPS is required to find and notify both parents about the ongoing investigation. 

Although not all CPS cases end up in court, CPS may petition for a court order to compel the family’s cooperation, to remove the alleged abuser from the child’s home, or to remove the child from home. Generally, children may not be removed from their homes without a court order. Sometimes, to minimize the child's stress, legal guardians may sign a power of attorney for child that allows the relatives take care of the kid until the investigation is over. 

When there is a risk of immediate harm, however, law enforcement may immediately remove the child without a court order. In such circumstances, the court will have to evaluate the necessity of the removal, usually within a day or two of removal. 

How long does it take to close a CPS case?

Depending on various factors, including the types of alleged abuse and neglect, a CPS case may last a few months up to a year. In cases of neglect, changes in the family’s living situation, such as a home environment or change in guardianship, may already warrant a case dismissal. Nonetheless, it is in the best interests of both children and their parents to have the CPS case closed, especially when the allegations are false.

What can parents or guardians expect during a CPS case?

  1. The identity of the person who reported the abuse or neglect will remain confidential. This is to protect the reporter from the possibility of retribution from the alleged abuser.

  2. Their child may be interviewed without parental consent. Even if the parent is not the alleged perpetrator of abuse, the CPS caseworker has the authority to interview the child without the parent or guardian present to gather the information to help the investigation. 

  3. Their cooperation matters. A CPS case does not necessarily mean the child will be removed from the home. To address the issues in the report, CPS may require interventions such as community service, parenting classes, drug tests, or even making simple repairs in the home. A lack of parental/guardian cooperation with CPS caseworkers in these interventions may aggravate the allegations against your client.

  4. Their communication with CPS workers or investigators must remain respectful. Despite their innocence, anything parents or guardians say to CPS investigators or law enforcement may be taken against them in court. For this reason, before the case gets to court, parents and guardians will benefit from a lawyer’s advice on communicating carefully, clearly, and truthfully with CPS caseworkers.

How To Get a CPS Case Closed

Can a judge dismiss a CPS case? In short, going to court may not even be necessary. Here are some ways to get a CPS case closed quickly.

  1. Get the case closed before it potentially goes to court. The majority of CPS cases involve neglect. When a child is said to be neglected, the parent or guardian fails to provide for a child’s needs, such as adequate food, shelter, health care, or education.

    In some states, neglect may include failing to put a child in school or providing the required treatment for children with special needs. In neglect cases, addressing the cause of such failure will typically allow the CPS case to close quickly. For example, if the home is inadequate or unsafe for the child, making necessary repairs can support the case becoming closed without having to go to court.

  2. Aim for a settlement, if possible. Settlement can be achieved during the case conference. You, your client, the CPS caseworker, and other persons involved may discuss a possible settlement to address the alleged neglect or abuse without going to trial.

  3. Stay up-to-date on federal and state laws concerning abuse or neglect. What constitutes abuse or neglect in one state may not be treated as in others. If the allegations in the complaint do not constitute abuse or neglect from the onset, it may be dismissed upon motion because the complaint fails to state a cause of action. This dismissal must be granted by the court.

  4. Conduct your own investigation. Even if your client provides you with all the information they think is necessary to merit the dismissal of the case, conducting a thorough and independent investigation into the alleged abuse or neglect may lead you to evidence that may disprove the allegations.

    Medical records, psychological evaluations, school records, employment records, and even research papers may be valuable in getting your case dismissed as soon as possible. A thorough investigation of all potentially relevant information may help disprove probable cause. Without probable cause, the judge may even dismiss the case before trial.

  5. Communicate regularly with your client. Regular communication with your client throughout the CPS case process is essential. As early as possible in your client’s case, inform them of all their rights throughout the process of a CPS case.

    Aside from keeping your client updated on hearing schedules and developments on the case, regular communication keeps you informed of your client’s living situation and any relevant changes that may be important to the point. Significant changes in your client’s (and/or their children’s) living situation may provide you with grounds to move for dismissing the CPS case.

Conclusion

After a traumatic separation from their children, the Brights eventually found relief when a county court ordered CPS to return Mason and Charlotte to their parents. The judge considered the finding that Mason suffered from Willebrand disease, a clotting disorder that causes bleeding and injuries that may be mistaken for abuse.

The court also ordered the state to pay the couple $127,000 as compensation for their legal expenses. While it took over a year, CPS officially closed its investigation and admitted that it did not have enough evidence of abuse. 

If your client has been falsely accused of child abuse or neglect, you can help them avoid the emotional harm of prolonged a CPS case, especially when deprived of child custody, by closing their case quickly.

Article by
Yevheniia Savchenko
Lawrina

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the product or UX content for Lawrina, feel free to contact Yevheniia directly at y.savchenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a motion to dismiss the dependency?

A motion to dismiss a dependency case is a request to end a legal matter that involves a person who depends on someone else, like a child. The person responsible for the child, like a parent or a guardian, usually makes this request.


 

What should I do if I am accused of child abuse or neglect?

The best way to protect yourself is to consult an experienced lawyer. An attorney can help you understand the charges, your rights, and potential ways to defend yourself.


 

What are the consequences of a CPS investigation?

The consequences of a CPS investigation can be severe and long-lasting. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, a child may be removed from their home temporarily or permanently. Parents can also face criminal charges if CPS finds evidence of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, CPS reports can affect future employment or housing opportunities.


 

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