Children's Protective Services
In addition to very serious criminal penalties, a parent who has been accused of child sexual abuse or any other type of child abuse risks termination of his or her parental rights. In many cases, Michigan law requires the state to seek termination of parental rights at the time of filing abuse/neglect charges. This litigation is called an abuse or neglect petition or Child Protective proceeding or a CPS case; and is litigated in the Family Division of the Circuit Court in the county where the child resides.
A casual comment made by your child, a neighbor’s child, a complaint by a student, a patient-doctor relationship gone bad, an innocent comment to a teacher or school counselor or false allegations made during a hotly contested divorce can all result in a potential CPS (Children’s Protective Services) investigation and possible termination of your parental rights.
In Michigan, your child comes in contact with many professional people who have mandatory reporting requirements. This means that, if your child makes a casual comment or false allegation to a doctor, physician assistant, dentist, dental hygienist, nurse, paramedic, counselor, school teacher, school administrator, pastor, priest, psychiatrist, psychologist, police officer, CPS worker, social worker or regulated child care provider, that person is required by law to immediately contact CPS. Children’s Protective Services are required to conduct an investigation and will generally go to your child’s school and attempt an interview without your knowledge.
Many people who have been accused of criminal child sexual abuse charges, and found not guilty by a jury of their peers, still find themselves blindsided by CPS Abuse and Neglect Petitions attempting to terminate their parental rights. Because the standard of proof in a Children’s Protective Services petition case is different from a criminal case, it is much easier for the state to terminate your parental rights than to convict you of a crime.
Different laws apply to the collection of potentially damaging evidence obtained by CPS investigators than evidence obtained by police in a criminal investigation. Because of this, police are often happy to let CPS take the lead in an investigation. They know that many of the constitutional protections that apply to criminal cases because of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution do not apply to a CPS investigation. This is because it is technically a civil case. A perfect example of this is that Miranda Warnings are never used by a CPS investigator, even though all the evidence obtained will be handed over to police and can be used later in a criminal prosecution. This is an example of why it is dangerous for you to talk to Children’s Protective Services without your attorney present.
Any officer, county agent, or probation officer may, without court order, immediately take a child into custody if the child's "surroundings are such as to endanger his or her health, morals, or welfare . . ." MCL 712A.14(1). These cases move very quickly in the early stages and they require experienced, tough, fearless attorneys to advocate for your family.
In any Children’s Protective Services proceeding you can expect that there will be many people working against you. These include the prosecutor, guardian ad litem, CPS investigator, social workers, foster care parents, and sometimes court appointed psychologists/psychiatrists and medical doctors. It is a common scenario for your own family physician to become the state’s main witness against you. The system is completely unbalanced in favor of the state which is why charges and/or complaints of sexual crimes must be taken very seriously and defended extremely aggressively. This is also why you need a competent attorney quickly. Your attorney must not be afraid to challenge the CPS investigation or charges at every stage of the process. Though the child abuse laws are complex, as aggressive lawyers that defend families frequently, we are here to help you keep your family together.
In Michigan, CPS often uses coercive and bullying tactics. They will often threaten to take your children away immediately if you fail to cooperate with their investigation. They will also frequently try to turn Mother and Father against each other. In many cases, CPS will charge one parent with “failure to protect” their child if they don’t turn against the other parent. While they may promise you that they will keep your family together, they often continue to gather information that can be used to tear your family apart. Be aware that allegations of abuse against one child may be used as evidence to remove or terminate your parental rights to another child, even one not yet born! Michigan parents have had their rights terminated on children in their home because of allegations made decades earlier regarding other children.
Even if CPS fails to terminate your parental rights in their original attempt, they may be able to keep your family within the jurisdiction of the court for a substantial amount of time only allowing you to see your children for short periods of time and under the supervision of a Department of Human Services (DHS) case worker unfriendly to your position. Before you consider entering a plea or consent to the jurisdiction of the court based on a promise that the state will not pursue termination of your parental rights, be sure you fully understand all the consequences of your plea. Among the many consequences of a determination or plea to an abuse and neglect charge will be registration on Michigan’s Child Abuse Registry. Another potential consequence is that termination may rear its ugly head later on in the case. For example, it is grounds for termination in Michigan that your case has gone on too long without the children being placed back in your home.
Doing battle with Children’s Protective Services is not a job for lightweights. It is often a long, difficult, messy process. CPS, backed up by the vast resources of the State of Michigan, is a formidable opponent. A large number of lawyers who handle these cases are court-appointed attorneys and are intimidated by CPS. Therefore they do not adequately protect the rights of their clients. At Kronzek & Cronkright, we’re interested in protecting your parental rights. We are not intimidated by CPS or a hostile system. Our attorneys have a track record of success in Child Protective Proceedings, and we are prepared to stand firm and protect your rights, your family and your future. Call or e-mail us today.
Free attorney consultation: Fill out our contact form or call 1-866-766-5245 twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to talk to an experienced Michigan defense lawyer about your CPS case. Our attorneys represent clients throughout Michigan, including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Detroit, Saginaw and Flint.