Emotional Abuse Due to Domestic Violence

Are you being accused of emotional abuse of your child after a domestic violence incident? When Child Protective Services (CPS, also known as Child Welfare Services or CWS) alleges you emotionally abused your child due to domestic violence, they could label you a “known child abuser” and put your name on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI).

Did You Actually Emotionally Abuse Your Child?

Domestic violence situations regularly provide examples of CPS overstepping their authority and abusing their power by alleging that the person committing domestic violence also committed "emotional abuse" against any child who was present or may have seen or heard the domestic violence. Many (most?) CPS social workers are incorrectly taught that any domestic violence in front of a child is evidence of emotional abuse. (Click here to better understand the law of so-called “emotional” abuse.)

The reality is case law says that "serious" domestic violence could give rise to a child being subject to removal. I'm not aware of any case law that says that non-serious domestic violence is grounds for removal of children.

Should You Cooperate With a Voluntary Case Plan (or Safety Plan)?

What often happens after an alleged domestic violence incident is CPS says the child may be at risk. But instead of taking your child from you, they have you and your partner agree to participate in a “voluntary” case plan or family safety plan. If you do not agree to participate, CPS may take your child from you. Therefore, it is only “voluntary” insofar as you are “choosing” to participate under threat of serious consequences for you and your child. But CPS doesn’t like the sound of “Coerced Case Plan,” so they go with “Voluntary Case Plan.”

If you situation involved an allegation of serious domestic violence, agreeing to a Voluntary Case Plan may prevent your child from being removed from your home and care. Most people will agree to the plan in this situation.

But if your situation involved non-serious domestic violence, should you flout the voluntary plan and tell CPS to go away? While you may be within your rights to do so and CPS may not be within their rights to remove a child after a non-serious domestic violence situation, you probably don't want to be the one to force CPS change their policies and practices...because it may require a long, hard-fought battle in court, during which time your kids may end up in foster care.

Most people are not willing to let their kids go through that nightmare in order to put CPS in their proper place. Most people will jump through CPS's hoops and "play nice" (i.e., allow CPS to micro-manage and disrupt your life) until CPS is out of their lives (which could happen quickly or as long as a year and a half later). Chances are, you will do the same, and that’s a perfectly reasonable decision—probably the right decision for you and your family.

Can You Get Your Name Off the CACI with Emotional Abuse Allegation?

Yes. Even if CPS does not remove your child, the social worker could still conclude that your child suffered emotional abuse at your hands and place your name on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Even if you go forward with the Voluntary Case Plan, you could still be placed on the CACI. In other words, completing the Voluntary Case Plan does not result in your name coming off the Index.

If you’re not sure if your name is on the CACI, you can find out if you are on the Index.

The only way to get your name off the Index is to fight your listing by requesting a CACI Grievance Hearing. In that hearing is the time to present your case to CPS to convince them that you did not commit emotional abuse.

Contact us right away if CPS has accused you of emotionally abusing your child. While we cannot help you in court if your child has been removed from your home, we can help you if your name is placed on the Child Abuse Central Index. We’d be honored to help you get off the CACI, as we have with so many other previous clients.