Last time, we talked about what Child Protective Services (CPS, also known as Child Welfare Services, or CWS) is, and whether you should involve them in your family law case. This blog post will talk about what to do when CPS gets involved and comes knocking on your door.
The first thing you have to do is keep your cool. The CPS agent may threaten you or wheedle you with kindness in order to get you to talk and/or show him/her your home. Remember: no one has the right to enter your house, not the police, and certainly not a CPS agent, without a warrant signed by a judge citing probable cause for some kind of offense. This sanctity of your home is guaranteed by the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, so do not be cowed by a pushy agent.
Also, don’t say anything substantive. Anything you say can (and likely will) be held against you in a court of law. If a CPS agent comes to your door requesting to come inside and speak to you, explain politely but firmly that you will be happy to speak to the agent in the presence of your attorney, and could the agent tell you his/her availability for such a meeting.
If the agent refuses and insists on talking to you, you can alert him/her that you are recording the conversation. In California, it is illegal to record a conversation without the other party’s knowledge, but there is nothing that prevents you from recording when you have announced that you are doing so. The agent then has the right to remain silent, but he/she cannot make you turn off the recorder.
The CPS agent may, rather than knock on your door, call you on the phone. The routine is the same: tell the agent you will be happy to set up an appointment, but your attorney must be there as well.
It may seem as though we are recommending an overabundance of caution, even paranoia. We are not. All it takes is one vindictive CPS agent to ruin your case and cost you tens of thousands of dollars to repair the damage. This is not to say all CPS agents are bad or malicious. We have simply dealt with CPS enough to know that, despite the several layers of supervisors and a County Counsel providing oversight, we have encountered an alarming number of CPS agents who have been motivated by factors apart from a child’s best interest.
A bad CPS report has a number of implications for your case. Family Court Services (FCS) will confer with CPS before making a recommendation if there is an ongoing investigation. The Court will review CPS’ findings when making a decision.
An unfounded CPS report can be defeated, however, in much the same way a bad FCS recommendation can be defeated. You can flip a negative into a positive if you can show that the allegations which led to the investigation were false and/or if the CPS agent acted inappropriately.
That is what we will talk about next time.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes and it should not be relied on as legal advice. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading the information on this site and can only be formed by a written agreement that sets forth the scope of the relationship and the fee arrangement. There is no substitute for expert legal assistance. If you need representation, schedule a consultation with the Barefoot team.