Practice Areas

Child Protective Services

Child-rearing has its challenges, but being under investigation for your parenting skills can be a nightmare. As parents ourselves, we know that allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect are as heart-breaking as they are terrifying.

That’s why you don’t need to go through this process alone. Hiring a Michigan defense attorney equipped to work on your Child Protective Services case and any potential criminal investigation is your best shot at keeping your children in your custody.

Shannon Smith is here for you.

What happens when you're under investigation by Child Protective Services?

If a teacher, counselor, doctor, other family member, or someone else who knows your child accuses you of child abuse, Child Protective Services (CPS) and/or law enforcement will contact you to begin an investigation into these charges.

CPS is a government-run agency that investigates reports of child abuse or neglect. Their goal is always to do what they deem is in the child’s best interest – even if that conflicts with what the child’s parents say or want.

In some states, including Michigan, suspecting abuse and failing to report it can lead to criminal charges for the accuser, making them legally obligated to make the accusation.

Typically, an investigation begins 24 hours after the accusation is made and lasts for 30 days. It may begin with a CPS investigator coming to your house unannounced and requesting to interview you, your partner, and your child(ren) separately.

CPS can only remove your child from your home with an official court order, but it is possible for them to obtain such a court order even while the investigation is still pending if they believe it is necessary for the child’s safety.

Your rights as a parent

Often the suspected evidence used to make the accusation is merely a misunderstanding or something taken out of context. So what can you do if an investigation begins?

As an accused parent, you maintain the following rights during the investigation:

You do not have the right to know who accused you, but you can ask for written records and reports of the investigation.

Under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you can deny the CPS investigator entry into your home until they get a court order to enter. It is important to get advice from a qualified lawyer, however, in deciding whether you should deny access.

This right is not just for criminal cases – it helps prevent you from incriminating yourself in any case. HOWEVER, refusing to cooperate with the CPS investigator’s questions entirely could present problems for you down the road. The best method is to respond to the investigator’s questions with questions of your own (i.e., “Why is my family being investigated?”) Trying to collect as much information as possible is critical.

Everyone’s situation is different, which is why you need to hire an attorney to help you tell your side of the story and work towards putting your family back together. Anything you say to your attorney will be held confidential under attorney-client privileges.

You will not be assigned a court-appointed attorney as a CPS investigation begins. If you cannot afford a Michigan attorney yourself and a petition is filed against you or involving your children, you may qualify for one when the matter goes to court.

Similarly, because the CPS investigation is a civil proceeding, it does not offer the same constitutional protections as a criminal charge does. For example, the investigator will not read you your Miranda rights, but everything that you say and do will be included in their report.

Types of allegations

Allegations that warrant CPS investigations include all kinds of physical, mental, emotional abuse and neglect.

Some common accusations include:

It is often the case that there is both a police investigation and a CPS investigation into your case going on at the same time.

It’s important to note that the burden of proof to terminate parental rights is far less than the burden of proof in a criminal case. So even if you are not found guilty in a criminal proceeding, your parental rights could still be terminated.

Because our firm also provides criminal defense, we can help you through both investigations at the same time.


The team at Shannon Smith Law is ready to fight for you.

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