Every parent dreads the knock on the door or receiving the letter to contact Child Protective Services.

CPS when used properly has a very important role to help safeguard children. However, many times in divorce cases a parent weaponizes CPS and tries to utilize them to harass the other parent. False allegations are made about inadequate guardianship, educational neglect, maltreatment and inappropriate sexual contact.

CPS is mandated by law to contact the alleged “suspect”. CPS will permit anonymous complaints. CPS will refuse to disclose the name of the complainant. CPS is not perfect and they sometimes make the wrong determination which can affect the outcome of contested custody and visitation proceedings. DIvorce and child support and possession of the marital residence are all highly influenced by custody determinations.

CPS will interview the children (age dependent), other family members, speak to teachers, doctors, neighbors or anyone else that they think has relevant information both to prove or disprove the complaint.

CPS determinations can be challenged and reversed if not supported.

My advice is generally to cooperate and participate in the interview as the alternative is that CPS will write that the “suspect” would not consent to the interview and then they assume that the answers would have been detrimental to the parent. While “suspects” do have the right to have their attorney present, more often than not the interview takes place without attorney supervision. There is definitely a fine line as I never want a client to admit to abuse or neglect so if a client is in doubt as to whether to talk to CPS they should postpone the interview until they have the chance to speak with their attorney. Scheduling the interview with counsel and CPS is ok as long as it does not unreasonably delay the investigation.

Giving clients advice on CPS matters is complicated and is best given by attorneys who are highly experienced matrimonial attorneys. There have been times where it becomes clear to the CPS Caseworker that the complaint is made to try and gain the upper hand in the custody litigation. In some instances CPS will, on its own initiative, investigate the complainant based upon the information gathered and so the report boomerangs onto the complainant.

The best advice is to immediately contact your matrimonial attorney if CPS wants to interview you.