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Help for Parents in Dealing with Child Protective Services

By Andrew J Thompson, Esq.

Is the following something you can relate to: you’ve been through a bitter divorce or paternity battle, all the while doing whatever you can to be the best parent you can be.  But the other parent, out of fear, anger, or for some other reason, has reported you to child protective services, and now they are investigating you as a parent.  What did you do?

In many cases, there are very good reasons for CPS’ involvement, to the point of terminating the rights of parents who leave children, without heat or food in their home, inadequate shelter from the elements, or outright physical or emotional abuse, e.g. harsh, physical punishment with extreme objects of force.

But that isn’t your situation.  Instead, you have found yourself on the wrong side of a custody battle, with a now-estranged judge, who is behaving punitively toward you, even though nothing, not even what is reported to CPS, fits the model of abuse or neglect in parenting.  So why are they investigating you?

I have seen many, many instances when a parent has been investigated by child services, and had some or all rights stripped from them, even though that parent is the one person who takes a child’s best interests to heart to the greatest extent possible.  How can this happen?

Consider the following, a single father, with no girlfriend, roommate, or significant other, has his children at home with him on alternating weekends.   His two year son goes back to his mother’s on Sunday evening with a small cut over his left eye.  The father tells the mother exactly what happened – the boys’ five year old sister came to the father and told him the boy was playing in

This is a very difficult situation. You need to be diligent and persistent about pursuing, restoring and protecting your rights.

You have recourse anywhere in the United States because the Constitution respects your rights as a parent above the authority of the state.  Don’t minimize the ultimate importance of this protection. Practically speaking, however, enforcing your rights can be very time consuming, expensive and difficult.  The state has a great deal of power and resources, and generally, once you’re in the CPS system, you are treated with suspicion.

You need to be patient, persistent and forthright in asserting your rights and your will as the parent – more interested in the care of your children than any agency can be.

Regardless of your sex, a good resource may be: http://www.familylawandfathers.com which addresses issues relating to parent’s rights in much detail.  Depending on your finances, it’s possible, though harder than ever, you may be entitled to pro bono representation via your local legal services organization, but the truth is you will receive limited service on a pro bono basis.  If you’re looking for sound, experienced representation, contact the team at the Thompson Law Office, by calling Andrew Thompson at (317) 604-1276, or by email at ajt@thompsonlaw-in.com.  We do offer sliding scale fee rates for individuals with limited resources as well – but don’t kid yourself!   You need to be prepared for a time consuming and expensive battle that comes down to the protection of your rights and of your children.

Hanging in there as a parent to your kids is so important! I wish you well.


Termination of Parental Rights

Under Indiana law, a termination of parental rights occurs when a court issues an order that permanently ends all legal, social, and financial responsibility between the child and her parents. The parents have no rights to custody or visitation of the child. The parents also have no duty to future support of the child, but must pay any past due support obligations until they are satisfied, see Indiana Legal Services’ web resources.

Indiana law provides for the voluntary termination of parental rights, when it is determined by a court, on recommendation of the Department of Child Services that such a termination of rights is in the best interests of the child. The parent whose rights are to be terminated must be fully informed of his or her rights by the court before an order is entered.

Usually, children are best served with the full integration of both parents in their lives in every way. Where parents live apart and there is extraordinary conflict, it may not be possible for both parents to be involved in the children’s lives.

While I recommend to every single parent to seek to create an equal balance of parenting time and support for the children, where this is not possible, and an amicable alternative does not exist – it can sometimes be in everyone’s best interests to terminate parental rights.

Typically, this would be the case if one parent is completely unable or unwilling to spend adequate time with the child, and a sizeable support arrearage is mounting. After all, a custodial parent who is unwilling to allow a child to have ample time with the otehr parent should not expect support from that parent.

Again, this is a decision of last resort. Even to parents who are substantially alienated from their children and forced to pay support nonetheless, I do not recommend this course of action until every other avenue of rebuilidng the relationship has been exhausted.