What Are Your Rights as a Parent if Accused of Child Abuse?
The idea of having the Arizona Department of Child Safety knocking on your door is a terrifying idea. The automatic fear, even when we know that we didn’t do anything wrong, is to panic and think that they are going to take away our children. This is by no means an admission of guilt on the part of a parent, it is a mere natural reaction to a stressful situation.
Your Rights as The Accused Parent
Anytime that the Arizona Department of Child Safety receives an allegation that there is a child being abused they are required by law to investigate it. Their job is to ensure that all children are living in a safe home.
When DCS comes to your door and meets with you initially, they are required by Arizona state law to inform you of your rights in written form. They are also required to inform the parent, guardian, or custodial party that:
- The person accused is being investigated by DCS and what they are being investigated for
- DCS cannot force them to cooperate
- The investigation will continue regardless of cooperation
- DCS has the right and may file a petition in juvenile court stating that the child needs protective services
- Refusal of services or cooperation in the investigation is not grounds for removing the child from the home. They are only removed if the investigator believes the child is in danger.
- The accused has the right to file a complaint with the ombudsman if they feel like their case is not being handled fairly and the DCS agent must provide them with it if asked
- The accused can respond to the allegations in writing or verbally
- Anything said or written is admissible in court
- Any written responses or documents will be admitted to the court proceeding
- Any information obtained in response to the allegation will be permissible in court
- DCS is responsible for keeping all of this on the record to present at the hearing
It is your right to request a copy of the hotline report that was made against you that sparked a DCS investigation. The name of the person who made the report will be removed from the record prior to it being sent to you.
If you feel like you were falsely reported, you can petition the court and ask the judge to release the DCS information on your case. This petition should include the reasons why you feel as though the complaint was made maliciously and with bad faith. The judge will review the documents and if they feel that it was a false report and was done so maliciously, they can ask that DCS release the name of the person who made the allegation.
The only way that the accused will get the name of the person who made the allegation is if the judge feels that the life of the person is not threatened by the accused knowing. At that time the accused can file suit against the person who made the allegation.
False reporting of child abuse is a class 1 misdemeanor.
If you find yourself on the other side of a child abuse accusation and DCS is investigating, hire a family law lawyer that can help you through the process. This is one judicial process that no person should ever have to do alone.
Click here to find out about domestic partnership laws in Arizona.