(480) 680-7432
What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do

What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do



What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do

The end of a marriage can bring about things you didn’t expect. One of the most surprising ones you may experience is dealing with Child Protective Services, otherwise known as the CPS.

Suddenly being greeted by representatives from Child Protective Services is not a pleasant experience. The reason they’ve paid a visit to your home could be to take your child away from you. Obviously, you want nothing to do with that.

The question is: What can you do when Child Protective Services shows up at your front door? That’s one of the many important questions we’ll be answering in this article. You’ll also learn how to respond if you have a dispute with CPS.

Read on to learn more about Child Protective Services and your rights when dealing with them.

The Mission of Child Protective Services

It’s important to understand that Child Protective Services is not your enemy.

The Department of Child Safety, the Arizona equivalent of CPS, states that their guiding core principles are:

  • Ensuring the safety of all Arizona children
  • Ensuring all Arizona children live in safe environments with loving families
  • Ensuring all Arizona children have an opportunity to thrive with the support of their families and communities

Those are all worthy core principles to abide by, and you won’t find any loving parent who disagrees with them. The values espoused by the Department of Child Safety are similarly admirable.

Their values include:

  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Child-Centered Care
  • Cultural Responsiveness
  • Family-Focused Work
  • Professional Excellence
  • Promoting Partnerships within Communities
  • Proper and Attentive Engagement

As a parent and resident of Arizona, knowing that the Department of Child Safety is present to keep a watchful eye over the youngest citizens of the state is a comforting thought. The services they provide are essential in every sense of the word.

child protective services investigation

Why Is Child Protective Services Investigating You?

Child Protective Services is on the side of protecting children and their best interests. Whether you’re a parent or not, you want to be on the same side as them. That’s why suddenly finding yourself on the other end of a CPS investigation can be legitimately frightening.

But why does that happen? Why are they investigating you even when you are doing nothing that comes close to endangering your child? There are some possible explanations.

A Former Spouse’s Attempt to Gain Custody

Following a divorce that involves children, the court will usually name a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. If they name you as the custodial parent, that means your children will primarily be in your care.

However, that doesn’t mean that your former spouse will stop trying to gain custody of the children the two of you brought into the world. Your former spouse may file false reports with the Department of Child Safety to gain primary custody of the kids while also trying to paint you in a negative light.

It can be infuriating when that happens. Unfortunately, authorities cannot rule it out, especially in cases where the two sides had an acrimonious parting.

Another Party’s Attempt to Gain Custody

It’s not only your former spouse who may attempt to take custody away from you using Child Protective Services. Your former in-laws and other family members may attempt that same tactic.

Whether the attempt is successful or not, having the eyes of CPS trained on you can be stressful. To be clear, though, you are not supposed to use Child Protective Services in custody battles.

Mistaken Allegations

One other reason why you may suddenly find yourself investigated by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety could be due to a mistaken assumption.

Let’s say, for example, that your child’s teacher saw that he/she has a busted lip. Now, you may already know that the busted lip occurred when your child fell accidentally while running around in your yard. However, the teacher who is unaware of that may mistake it for a potential sign of abuse.

On one hand, you can appreciate the fact that the teacher is keeping a close eye on your child. On the other, you may not appreciate that you get investigated due to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

What Happens After a Report Is Filed with Child Protective Services?

The government takes claims about potential child abuse seriously. That’s reflected in how Child Protective Services operates.

You should know that all reports sent to CPS are investigated. It doesn’t matter whether the claim was made up or inaccurate, they will get involved and attempt to get to the bottom of things.

Upon receiving a report, the officials tasked with investigating child abuse claims will look to either screen in or screen out that report. So, what does that mean?

According to StopItNow.org, a specific report may be screened out when the department determines that there is not enough information to further an investigation. The department may also screen out a report if the claim does not constitute child abuse or neglect.

Child Protective Services may also decide to screen out a report if they determine it to be inaccurate or false.

If the officials believe that there is potential merit to the report, they will proceed further and screen in the investigation. They may decide to conduct a preliminary investigation to gather additional information.

How Do Child Protective Services Investigate Reports?

Investigating the claims made to Child Protective Services is a multi-stage process. Let’s discuss what those stages are in greater detail in the next section.

Establish Contact with the Reporting Source

The investigation carried out by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety starts with contacting the reporting source. Notably, they usually withhold the identity of the reporting source throughout the investigation.

Examine Old Documents Related to the Case if They Exist

The Department will then start trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the claim. To do so, they will look for any previous reports filed to them involving the child and the alleged perpetrator of abuse.

Interview and/or Observe the Child Involved in the Case

After that, an investigator from the Department may pay a visit to the child and conduct an interview. They may also opt to observe the child at first.

An important thing to note here if you’re the parent is that you cannot stop an investigator from the Department of Child Safety from conducting that interview. Per Arizona law, the investigator does not need to receive any written consent from the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child before the interview can take place.

Furthermore, they can exclude you and anyone else watching over the child from the interview. Again, the investigator can conduct the interview even if you do not approve of it.

Now, you need to remember that you do not need to give the investigator permission to enter your home. If you do not want the visit to occur at that point, you can inform the investigator and request to reschedule. Since you did not give the investigator permission to enter your home, they will need to leave.

The only time an investigator can enter your home without your consent is if they have a court order authorizing them to do so. Usually, those court orders are only handed down when it’s believed that the child is in immediate danger. If there is no merit to the allegations against you, it’s unlikely that the investigator will be carrying a court order.

Interview the Potential Perpetrator

Once the interview with the child ends, the investigator will likely talk to you. The questions asked during this interview may be personal. You do not need to answer the questions or even provide any response if you don’t want to.

If you do decide to talk, remember they can use the things you say if the case goes to trial. It would be wise to consult with a lawyer first before you speak to the investigator.

Interview the Other People in the Household

The investigator from the Department of Child Safety may also decide to interview the other members of your household. They may even speak to other young kids you have.

It’s worth reiterating that they can use the things said during this interview in court. The other members of your household can also choose not to respond to the questions.

Continue the Investigation

The investigation will continue after the interviews. They may review court orders if they are available, and they may use other investigative tools.

What Happens After the Investigation?

With the investigation conducted, the case may now go in one of two directions.

First, on finding there is no merit to the claim, they may decide to close the case. They will tell the parent, guardian, or custodian that the case is closed.

However, if the investigator believes that there is abuse possibly taking place, he/she will move to substantiate the allegation. The findings will then be documented and eventually reviewed by a supervisor at the Department of Child Safety and the Protective Services Review Team.

They will tell the parent, guardian, or custodian about the results of the investigation. From there, they may take further action.

The Department of Child Safety will look into other ways to keep the child protected before resorting to taking him/her away from a family.

The ways they may attempt to secure the safety of the child include:

  • Providing the family with essential supplies if a lack of resources is the reason for the neglect
  • Asking the perpetrator of abuse to leave if the other members of the household can protect the child
  • Helping the protective parent, guardian, or custodian leave the household of the person responsible for the abuse

If those options are not feasible, they may place the child in a voluntary placement agreement.

The child may also go into temporary custody. This temporary custody can last up to 12 hours. During that time, the child may be examined by a doctor and/or a psychologist.

Child Protective Services are allowed under the law to take your children away if their investigation has determined that abuse has taken place. After that, they will likely file a lawsuit against you.

In all likelihood, a hearing will take place. Once that hearing is over, the court will decide if the child should be returned to your custody, entrusted to a different family member, or remain in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Reach out to a lawyer before that hearing takes place so you can make a more compelling case and disprove the allegations of abuse and neglect.

What to Do if You Want to Lodge a Complaint against Child Protective Services

There may be cases where the investigator for the Department of Child Safety overstepped their bounds a bit. Upon finding that out, you will probably and understandably not be thrilled about what happened.

You should know that filing a complaint is an option.

To resolve a complaint, you have with the Department of Child Safety, you must start with contacting the investigator who worked on your case. Call the investigator in question or leave a message. If you receive no response after two days, you can also send an email.

Be sure to record all your attempts to communicate with the investigator.

If there is still no response, you can then elevate your concerns to a supervisor in the Department of Child Safety.

Contacting the Department of Child Safety of the Ombudsman is your last resort if both the investigator and supervisor fail to respond to your attempts to communicate.

The prospect of losing your child due to a false or misguided claim of abuse made against you is terrifying and traumatizing. You cannot allow those claims to go unchallenged, considering the damage they may do to your family and your reputation.

Work with us at the Schill Law Group if you’ve been falsely accused of being an abusive parent. Reach out to us today and learn more about the different ways we can help.

Fathers Rights in Arizona

Fathers Rights in Arizona

Defending the People of Arizona

With more than 100 Years of combined experience

Fathers Rights in Arizona

Parents have the right to have a relationship with their children. State laws end up enforcing these rights a lot of the time, including what is known as father’s rights. In the state of Arizona, fathers have certain rights in regards to parenting, just as the children have a fundamental right to have healthy relationships with their parents.

Arizona established state laws to help encourage a parent/child relationship, and the courts don’t step in unless absolutely necessary. In the majority of father’s rights cases, the child’s best interest is a cornerstone in any decision.

boy playing with airplane

A Father’s Effect on a Child’s Life

Traditionally, the mother holds the position of a child’s primary care provider. But fathers also play a critical role in the child’s development and healthy growth. Both in and out of the courtroom, fathers have proven they can be capable disciplinarians and competent caretakers.

These two roles are essential to any child’s upbringing. Fathers can help instill social and cognitive development, as well as confidence and a sense of security.

Arizona’s Laws for Establishing Paternity

It’s still common for a mother to raise a child by herself without a father figure present. There may come a time when the father has to step up in the child’s life to help with raising them. This is why the father or mother must establish the child’s paternity very early on, ideally, right after the mother has the child.

Establishing paternity simply means that a court judge or government entity has made a ruling on which male is the child’s father. One of the easiest ways to establish paternity in Arizona is for the family to fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form

Both the mother and father should sign this form. Having both parties sign this form makes the paternity official in the government’s eyes, and it legally outlines who the child’s father is for all intents and purposes.

If the parents can’t agree on who the child’s father is, any of the following people can start a paternity matter under Arizona state law:

  • The mother of the child
  • A male believed to be the father (putative father)
  • The person whom the child is living with or their guardian (custodian)
  • Any government agency that provides the child with welfare benefits or health insurance

A superior court system can start a motion to establish the child’s paternity where the mother, child, and putative father reside. Any government agency that provides any form of care for the child can bring up a motion to establish paternity outside of the court system

When it comes to determining paternity, either a ruling from a government agency or a court is valid. Both the government agency and the court can order genetic or blood testing to help establish the child’s paternity. The paternity test is only valid if it shows there is a 95% chance the male in question is the child’s father.

Arizona’s Best Interest of the Child Standard

The Best Interests of the Child Standard in Arizona is the guiding force for Arizona judges who are trying to preside over parental right or child custody cases. There are determining factors the judges must consider when it comes to the child’s best interests, including:

  • Both parents’ mental health
  • Both parents’ physical health
  • Both parents’ preferences
  • Child’s ability to adjust to current or potentially new surroundings in the community, home, or school
  • Child’s mental health
  • Child’s preferences
  • Relationship between the child and any siblings
  • Relationship between the child and each parent
  • Relationships between the child and other significant individuals

The court will consider which parent will be more likely to allow for frequent and meaningful contact between the other parent and the child. They also look at which parent took on the role of the traditional caregiver. Any parent that used duress or coercion as a way to get primary custody will cause the judge to look unfavorably on them.

This is especially true when you compare it to how the judge will look on the other parent that cooperates for the child’s benefit. Ultimately, the judge wants to know that the child is in a living situation that serves their best interests. The end goal is not making things fair for the parents, but rather, it’s to ensure the well-being of the child.

Father’s Rights to Visitation and Custody in Arizona

Both of a child’s biological parents have the right to seek custody or visitation, and both parents have equal rights in this regard. This right also stands whether or not the parents were married or not married when they had a child. Arizona judges rely on the child’s best interests standard to help guide their decisions regarding custody.

This guidance also applies to any visitation rights, whether they put them in place for the mother or the father. The judge usually assumes that it’s beneficial for the child to have both parents play a role in their upbringing.

father playing with daughter

Father’s Rights to Child Support in Arizona

Circumstances pending, the judge could appoint either the father or the mother as the child’s primary guardian or custodial parent and the other parent as the non-custodial one. The custodial parent is the one who will be largely responsible for the child’s care and upbringing. The non-custodial parent usually pays child support and gets visitation rights.

Child support is a way for the non-custodial parent to help provide financially for the child’s care and upbringing. Child support is supposed to pay for anything the child should need like their housing, clothing, food, or other items.

It doesn’t matter if the father or mother gets the custodial parent role. The custodial parent has a right to seek child support to help them raise the child. A father whom the judge names as the custodial parent has as much right to petition for child support from the mother as the mother would if she was the custodial parent.

In Arizona, custodial parents can use the Child Support Enforcement Program to help get child support payments from the non-custodial parent.

Married Father’s Rights

In the state of Arizona, if a couple is or gets married before they have a child, there is a presumption of paternity. The state presumes you’re the child’s biological father. The state considers paternity to be already established when you’re married.

As a result, you have a legal right to see and interact with the child, and you also get to participate in major decisions regarding the child. These decisions could be education, medical treatment, or religious training.

Being married when you have a child also gives you responsibility in the event of a divorce. This is true for child support payments if you are the non-custodial parent.

Married Fathers Get Equal Rights

Arizona law recognizes and protects equal rights between the mother and the father in the event of a separation or divorce. If you worked full-time while your wife stayed home and took on the role of the primary caregiver for the child, the court wouldn’t hold that against you when it decides parenting time or legal decision-making rights.

In Arizona, courts don’t follow the Tender Years Doctrine anymore, which favored mothers when it came to deciding the primary placement and visitation schedules. Today, both the mother and father have equal rights in the eyes of the court, no matter the child’s age. The court isn’t allowed to favor one parent over the other parent.

The courts have to take all of the facts of the case into consideration before they make their ruling and final decision. The parents and the court system should all focus on the child’s best interests throughout the custody and visitation proceedings.

Unmarried Father’s Rights

Any father who isn’t married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth has no legal rights to the child until they establish paternity under Arizona law. You can establish paternity through an affidavit (agreement) between both the mother and the father. There is also the option to get a court order to try and establish paternity with a test, and from that, establish rights for the unmarried father.

Arizona law allows an unmarried mother to make more significant decisions with regards to the child’s education, medical treatment, and religious training without seeking the father’s approval or without his consent. This changes if the father decides to seek his parental rights.

Custodial Interference

For unmarried fathers in Arizona who don’t go through the process of establishing paternity, custodial interference is a very real possibility. For example, you take your daughter to the park to play like you have hundreds of times before. You help her on the slide and push her on the swing. Suddenly, a police car pulls up and asks you for your ID.

Once you show it, the officer arrests you and tells you that they’re charging you with custodial interference. The police take your daughter away and give her back to her mother. You and the mother argued this morning before you took your daughter to the park. As a result, she called the police on you after you left to get her daughter back.

Is this legal? If you’re unmarried, it might be. If you’re not married to your child’s mother and you don’t establish paternity, you have no rights to that child. Now, if you had established paternity, this wouldn’t be legal.

FAQs Regarding Father’s Rights

There are several frequently asked questions people have regarding father’s rights in Arizona. We picked out the most popular questions and answered them below.

Your significant other just had a baby. What are your rights if you’re not married?

You have no rights until you establish paternity. This doesn’t mean that you should be denied time with the child. If one or both parties dispute custody, a court will include a review of how both the mother and father treated one another with regards to access to the child.

If one parent decides to deny access without having a good reason, the court will review it later when they’re deciding the best custody arrangements. Good reasons for denying one parent access to the child include child abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence, or untreated mental illness.

Does the child’s age matter?

Whether they are six months or sixteen, the age won’t impact a judge’s decision. As long as they are a minor, you can dispute custody or seek visitation rights. You’re free to establish paternity starting at birth and going up to the time the child turns 18.

If you get a paternity test, will you have to pay child support?

Yes. Every parent has to pay for their child until they turn 18, and it doesn’t matter if the child lives with you or not. Non-custodial parents are the ones who typically pay child support to the custodial parent to help support their child.

You have your name on the birth certificate, and the hospital staff signed it; does that prove paternity?

As long as the mother or another party doesn’t contest your name on the birth certificate, yes. A signed birth certificate is enough to establish paternity.

Can you establish paternity without involving a court or government agency?

Yes. You can draft a legally binding agreement that both you and the mother sign without going to the court. However, you can’t claim this is a court order unless a judge signs off on the agreement you set up.

Is submitting paternity paperwork to the state of Arizona free?

No. Arizona charges a filing fee. The amount depends on what paperwork you want to submit to establish paternity. If you have trouble affording this fee, a court can waive it if you request it.

Find Out More About Father’s Rights

Do you want to know more about your rights? Maybe you need an attorney to help guide you through the process of establishing paternity. If so, you can reach out and contact us. We’re happy to set up a consultation today!