What You Need to Know About Child Abuse and Neglect Allegations
If You are Under Investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) for Child Abuse and Neglect, You Need an Experienced, Effective Defense Attorney to Protect You. Our Defense Team Can Help!
Charges of Child Abuse & Neglect
If you are under investigation or charged with child abuse or neglect, you face the possibility of severe consequences, including the possibility of losing custody, parenting time, or even parental rights. Because the health and safety of a child may be at risk, law enforcement and prosecutors are aggressive in prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases. Michigan has four degrees of child abuse and neglect charges; the offense you face will depend on the level of alleged harm inflicted on the child. Working with a qualified Child Abuse and Neglect Attorney gives you the best odds of stopping the government from interfering with your parental rights.
Under Michigan Child Protection Laws, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) must file a petition in court if they determine a preponderance of evidence exists that a child has been sexually abused or exploited, severely physically injured due to abuse or neglect (including abuse or neglect that results in the death of a child), or exposed to or had contact with a methamphetamine product.
What is a Petition for Child Abuse or Neglect
If MDHHS files a petition in court for temporary wardship or termination of parental rights, you and your lawyer must appear and respond to the petition. You are entitled to a jury trial because a parent’s rights to their children are constitutional. It is essential that you have formidable and experienced legal representation to protect you during child protective proceedings. A temporary wardship petition gives a court temporary legal custody of a child. A termination petition seeks to permanently sever a parent’s parental rights to their child.
Mandatory Petitions for Child Abuse and Neglect
Additionally, MDHHS is required to file a petition when they believe a parent abused a child or failed to protect a child from any of the following:
- Criminal sexual conduct;
- Battering, torture, or other severe physical abuse;
- Loss of impairment of an organ or limb;
- Life-threatening injury; or
- Murder or attempted murder.
Stages of a CPS Investigation for Child Abuse & Neglect
Child abuse and neglect cases in Michigan often begin with a complaint to Child Protective Services (CPS). When CPS becomes involved with your family, it is essential to know your rights and responsibilities. If someone accuses you of child abuse or neglect or CPS has been in contact with you, you’ll need an experienced child abuse and neglect defense lawyer to help.
An investigation for child abuse or neglect will begin when someone reports alleged child abuse or neglect to CPS. Within 24 hours, a CPS worker will be assigned to the case and begin their investigation. The worker must complete their investigation within 30 days. The investigation generally consists of interviewing the child and the parents or the alleged perpetrator, viewing the child’s living conditions, reviewing necessary documents, and sometimes having the child examined by a doctor or mental health professional.
After the CPS worker has completed their investigation, it is their responsibility to determine what action to take next. The case will be placed into one of five categories, depending on the severity of the worker’s observations and assessments. From there, the worker’s responsibility is to take any steps necessary to protect the child, including removing the child from the home if needed. At this time, CPS might file a child abuse or neglect petition with the Court requesting the court to order:
- the removal of the child from home,
- the removal of the perpetrator from home, or
- the family to cooperate with in-home services.
Additionally, the government might file separate child abuse or neglect criminal charges against the perpetrator.
CPS Investigation Categories
There are five potential CPS categories of abuse and neglect findings following an investigation by a child protective services investigator. They are:
- Category V – Cases in which CPS is unable to locate the family, unable to find evidence of child abuse or neglect, or the court declines to issue an order requiring family cooperation during the investigation.
- Category IV – Cases in which CPS doesn’t find child abuse or neglect occurred by a preponderance of the evidence. The department must assist the child’s family in voluntarily participating in community-based services commensurate with the risk level determined by the risk assessment.
- Category III – Cases in which the department determines a preponderance of the evidence of child abuse or neglect, and the risk assessment indicates low or moderate risk. CPS must make a referral to community-based services.
- Category II – Cases in which the department determines a preponderance of the evidence of child abuse or neglect, and the risk assessment indicates a high or intensive risk. CPS must provide services in conjunction with community-based services.
- Category I – Cases where the department determines a preponderance of the evidence of child abuse or neglect and a court petition is needed or required. CPS must provide services in conjunction with community-based services.
When CPS places a case in Category II or I, they list the alleged perpetrator’s name on the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. If the person listed objects to being included on the list, they can file a Petition for Expunction from the child abuse registry.
False or Exaggerated Allegations of Child Abuse & Neglect
There are cases of child abuse or neglect where the allegations are false or exaggerated. Child abuse and neglect allegations can often result from a misunderstanding, an accident, or in some cases, false allegations of a scheming ex-spouse, vengeful teacher, or misguided CPS worker or police officer. In such circumstances, it is vital to have a knowledgeable defense attorney by your side. Even when you are innocent, a child abuse defense attorney can protect your rights and help ensure the true facts come to light. An experienced Child Abuse and Neglect Attorney may prove their client is innocent, or the facts do not equate to abuse, or at least not to the degree of the abuse alleged. With decades of experience successfully defending clients on child abuse and neglect cases, the team of attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., have the power and skill to protect you and your children from the traumatic consequences of false or exaggerated allegations.
Parental Discipline vs. Child Abuse
A parent in Michigan has the right to discipline their child physically. The standard in Michigan is that any punishment must not be excessive. In court, excessive is often judged by whether the physical discipline resulted in visual markings or injuries; however, there is no clear definition. Ultimately, it is up to a judge or jury to determine if physical discipline is excessive or reasonable.
A Successful Defense Means Reunification with Your Children or Restoration of Your Parental Rights
What is more important than your children? Probably nothing. Taking chances with a general practice lawyer, bargain attorney, or court-appointed counsel can result in an outcome you might regret, and there is no second bite at the apple. An experienced, effective, respected Child Abuse and Neglect Defense Lawyer gives you your best hope of maintaining your rights and relationship with your child or children. The team of attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has an unparalleled track record of success in helping parents facing child abuse and neglect allegations. We can help you!
Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Defense Lawyers
Although the potential consequences of child abuse and neglect cases can be devastating for both you and your family, there is hope. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., have successfully and effectively defended child abuse and neglect cases for decades. We will take the time to understand your concerns, investigate the case, and formulate a plan to achieve the best possible outcome. If there is a way to help you, we will find it!
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.