What happens when Child Protective Services is called during a divorce?

There are some divorce cases that, unfortunately, have to involve Child Protective Services (CPS). In Missouri, CPS may be called to investigate claims of:

  • Child abuse
  • Criminal acts by a parent
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Child endangerment
  • Domestic violence

Once CPS is called, the local Children’s Division office will be informed. Missouri law requires an investigation or family assessment within 24 hours of a report being made, unless the claim is only related to educational neglect, such as not allowing a child to attend school. Even in those cases, an investigation or assessment has to be completed within 72 hours.

What happens during an investigation or family assessment?

There are two things that may happen next. Either an investigation or family assessment will be initiated.

An investigation is pursued when there is a need to collect more information and to determine if a child is in danger or has been abused. Investigations typically involve law enforcement. Investigations look into cases of abuse or neglect at residential facilities, schools and child care centers. They also look into allegations of serious physical abuse, neglect, unusual deaths and sexual abuse.

Family assessments are different because there isn’t a focus on deciding if one of the people involved needs to be listed in the Central Registry as someone who committed abuse or neglect. Instead, the goal is to recognize factors that put a child in danger and to offer services to support the family and prevent harm from coming to the child. Family assessments may be used for cases of medical neglect, educational neglect or mild/moderate reports of physical neglect or abuse.

A family assessment or investigation could influence your divorce case

If you are accused of neglecting or abusing your child, or if you accuse your spouse or partner of those actions, then an investigation or family assessment could take place. Those allegations could influence a judge and your case depending on the outcome. That’s why it’s important to take allegations seriously and to make sure everyone involved is aware of what a CPS case could mean for your family and your child’s future.

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