arm of person wearing a suit knocking on the door to someone's home

What Are Your Rights When CPS Comes to Your House?

It’s a nightmare for any parent to imagine CPS coming to your home to investigate abuse or neglect allegations against you regarding your kids. Your mind is probably racing with questions:

  • Who would accuse me of hurting my kids?
  • Will CPS take them away?
  • Will I face criminal charges if CPS decides something is wrong?
  • How can I protect my relationship with my kids?

These are all good questions, and questions you have a right to ask.

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a division of Washington State’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). Its task is to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect. It may feel like CPS has all the power in an investigation because they come from a government agency, but you have rights, too. It’s important, especially in a tense situation like a CPS investigation, to remember these rights and to stick up for yourself (and by extension, for your kids).

The Right to Discipline Your Kids

While child abuse and neglect are unlawful, disciplining your children, even using corporal punishment, is your right as a parent. The Supreme Court has held that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution protects “the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”

This upbringing can include spanking or other physical punishment, so long as the force you use is reasonable and the physical discipline is reasonably related to your children’s welfare. The physical discipline must not cause lasting physical harm, humiliate your children, or cause severe mental or physical distress.

The Right to be Heard

If CPS thinks neither you nor your children’s other parent is caring for them adequately, it may file in court a dependency petition. That asks the court to place your children in someone else’s care until one of their parents becomes an adequate caregiver.

If CPS files a dependency petition, you have a right as a parent to be heard in court. You can deny any allegations against you and challenge the evidence against you. You can also say where you’d prefer your kids live (whether with you or with someone else).

The Right to be Represented by an Attorney

In any case affecting your parental rights, you have a right to be represented by an attorney. A lawyer can help to protect your legal interests and present a defense to child abuse allegations.

If you lack the funds to hire an attorney yourself, you can get low-cost or free legal help. In Washington State dependency cases and in any case where the government is seeking to terminate your parental rights, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you.

What It’s Like to Have the Marshall Defense Firm in Your Corner

Respect and compassion are the foundation of our work. We take time to get to know you and your case. It’s where our fierce advocacy for you begins.

Then there’s our experience. For decades we have defended special-assault cases like Child Protective Services investigations. From that and our on-going study of the law, medicine, and psychology involved in these cases, we have exceptional skill.

And we pool that skill. We work as a team. We know that no one lawyer, no matter how brilliant, will have all the good ideas for your case.

Our final ingredient is relentless investigation and preparation. When we step into court to defend you, we are ready to do it well.

If you or a loved one needs services like ours, contact us at 206.826.1400 or for an appointment.

Confer with us in good health! You may choose to confer with us by Zoom or telephone to avoid Covid risk. Please phone us at 206.826.1400 to schedule your conference.