There’s nothing quite as stressful as receiving a call from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS, sometimes called Child Protective Services or CPS), and hearing someone made an allegation of child abuse or child neglect against you.
Your heart palpitates so much you can feel the pulsating in your ears.
You start to sweat.
Your mind races, thinking about who could have made these allegations.
Hint: the allegations almost always come from your ex.
So, what should you do when you get that call from DCFS?
Your first reaction will be to talk to them because you haven’t done anything wrong.
That’s probably the wrong approach, and here’s why:
- A substantiated DCFS investigation can have very serious consequences for you and your kids.
Don’t take DCFS investigations lightly. A substantiated DCFS case can result in your kids being taken away, state supervision or your parent-time, and a whole bunch of other stuff you don’t want. Also, even if the state doesn’t take much action against you, your ex could use a substantiated DCFS case against you in court — that happens all the time.
Even something as simple as not accepting a safety plan from DCFS can be used against you later on.
- A DCFS investigation can lead to criminal charges.
If DCFS substantiates abuse or neglect allegations against you, the investigation will often be forwarded to police for criminal charges. In fact, often, the police will use DCFS to investigate charges of sexual or physical abuse before it will investigate anything, just to see if there’s something there.
Because of this, talking to DCFS is like talking to a cop. And the #1 rule about talking to a cop is: don’t talk to a cop without an attorney.
That #1 rule applies to DCFS as well. It’s best to have an attorney with you to help you through a DCFS investigation.
- DCFS investigators are often inexperienced and not well trained.
There’s high turnover in DCFS investigators, so often they’re inexperienced. This doesn’t take away from the job they’re doing (keeping kids safe), which is admirable. But, it does mean you have to be careful that you don’t get an overzealous, inexperienced investigator who will make things unnecessarily hard on you and your kids.
- If you say something wrong, even if it’s innocuous, it can be taken the wrong way and result in a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect.
Maybe you’ve been accused of hitting your kid in the face. In response, you say, “No, I’ve never done that. I mean, I’ve spanked him before when he hits his sister, but I’ve never hit him in the face.”
Or, you’ve been accused of leaving your kids alone for hours, and you say, “Look, I leave them home alone while I go to the store sometimes, but it’s maybe fifteen minutes, not a long time.”
And with that, you’ve admitted something that, while pretty innocuous (who doesn’t leave their kids alone sometimes?), could land you in hot water with DCFS.
Once DCFS gets something, anything, their investigation can go anywhere it wants.
DCFS investigations can have serious consequences for you and your family. Don’t take these investigations lightly. If you can, have an attorney help you get through the investigation successfully.
Call Brown Family Law
If you find yourself facing a Utah divorce, please call 801.685.9999 for an in-person consultation, or use our online scheduling tool.