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My 16 yr old daughter sees a therapist for depression and possible

bi polar disorder. Last...
My 16 yr old daughter sees a therapist for depression and possible bi polar disorder. Last week after an episode with her, she was extremely disrepectful to me (she flipped me off) and I slapped her mouth, needless to say we had a bad argument. This was confided to her therapist, who in turn reported me to CPS because I slapped her. He never reconfirmed any of this with us or our daughter and now the situation is being investigated. I have researched our rights, and quite frankly though I regret that any of this happened, feel he was out of line to report a slap as in the state of Michigan this does not constitute Child abuse. Do we need a lawyer to deal with CPS?
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7/17/2013
Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12,620
Experience: Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
Verified

Brandon M. :

Hello there.

Customer:

Hi Brandon

Brandon M. :

Hi, thank you for your question.

Brandon M. :

Did the slapping leave a mark?

Customer:

No, god no!

Brandon M. :

Was this an isolated incident?

Customer:

In her entire life this was the fifth time? Her calculation...We asked her, my husband and I

Customer:

My husband never spanked our girls ever...I only ever swatted/slapped their mouths for sassing!

Brandon M. :

I realize that this next question may seem a bit odd, but it is important to the discussion of possible ramifications of not cooperating with CPS (which will be discussed later): what is the line of work that you and your husband are in?

Customer:

My husband is a high school teacher and soccer coach, I am an office manger in supply chain for a faith based healthcare company

Brandon M. :

Does your husband work at a private or public school?

Customer:

Public

Brandon M. :

Thank you. Please allow me a moment to explain the law in Michigan.

Brandon M. :

I would first start by saying, as one parent to another, that, based on your description of events, your daughter deserved what she got. That said, I should also be clear that because the nuances of every situation are different, this information should not be construed as complete or advice without consulting in person with counsel.

You touched on several questions. You questioned whether it was out of line for a therapist to report a slap to a 16 year old's face to CPS. In the therapist's defense--it really wasn't out of line. Therapists are mandated reporters under Michigan law, which leaves them with very little actual discretion when there is even scant hint of possible child abuse or neglect. If the therapist fails to report possible abuse or neglect, he or she risks losing his license, and may even face criminal prosecution. Since there is discussion of hitting on the face, it really leaves the therapist with no reasonable alternative.

Child physical abuse is a non-accidental injury to a child by the person responsible for the child's welfare and health. Corporal punishment of a child is NOT illegal in Michigan as long as the child is not "injured". Where there is no mark--i.e. bruising, redness, broken bones, sprained joints, etc.--it is normally not considered an injury for purposes of law enforcement/CPS. Even in the cases where the contact doesn't leave a mark and still would be considered abuse (rare--use your imagination), it is usually so difficult to prove abuse that neither CPS nor law enforcement can get involved anyway....

Brandon M. :

So slapping a child in a way that doesn't leave a mark normally would not be enough for CPS to do anything more than investigate and take no action...

Brandon M. :

That said, you never know when you're going to encounter a CPS investigator who is overzealous or misinterprets things. The reality is that many of their social workers tend to view corporal punishment of any degree as borderline abuse, and when you deal with abusive, negligent, drug addict parents all day, it tends to skew your perception of people in general...

Brandon M. :

So it is important to know that there is generally no obligation for any parent to allow themselves to be interviewed by CPS. A request for interview can be politely declined...

Brandon M. :

No investigator likes to be told "no", but that's really their problem and not yours, the parent. It's pretty common that they will make threats like "if you don't answer these questions/let me inspect your home/etc., I will get a warrant for your arrest". The threats are empty. If they had enough evidence to initiate an arrest or search your home, or cause you to submit to a drug test, or do whatever sort of search/intrusion that they want you to submit to, they would have already done it. I tell you this because it is one thing to know your right to not answer the government's questions when investigating you, and it is another to know that they are trained to lie to you to get you to cooperate....

Brandon M. :

For certain professions, it can get tricky when dealing with CPS, particularly those professions that involve working with children, such as a public school teacher. Oftentimes, individuals in that profession are required by their employers to cooperate with any CPS investigation, or risk an adverse action related to the jobs. If someone (such as your husband) works as a public school teacher or works with kids, I would recommend that he contacts his union for information about his work-related obligation to cooperate with a CPS investigation...

Customer:

Today three workers showed up at our home at 2pm unannounced, our 16 yr old daughter answered the door and told them, "my parents said not to talk to you without them present." They left a letter for us to call them. I did, and left a voice mail stating we would only meet at their office, as we had nothing to hide, but would not meet at our home without our attorney present. We only really think we should do this because my husband is a teacher?

Brandon M. :

And that leads me to my recommendation. You asked if you need a lawyer to deal with CPS. The answer is that I strongly recommend it. CPS matters are one of the most horrible things that you will ever have to contend with if it goes to court, and an ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure. I do recommend that you contact an attorney and refer any inquiries from CPS to that attorney. An attorney should help you permanently diffuse this situation as quickly as possible. As I mentioned, physical "child abuse" requires injury, and that normally doesn't include hitting without leaving a mark, so it may be that your case won't go anywhere under any circumstance, but this is one type of matter that very much deserves the attention of legal counsel if at all possible, simply because of what is at stake.

Brandon M. :

I don't think that you should do this because your husband is a teacher. I think that your husband needs to contact his union representative to find out the specific consequences of non-cooperation (assuming he pays union dues). I then think that all communications to CPS need to go through an attorney. I do not think that you should meet with anyone or make any statements until you have had the chance to secure counsel.

Customer:

Perfect, thank you for your advise. I appreciate it. My daughter has suffered her "mood disorder" for a few years now, and has used substances to cope. We have had her in treatment, and continued counseling, so our plate is full and honestly we are her biggest advocates. So again, this blow up albeit unfortunate, is part of the territory when you are dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. This is the last thing I need right now, and quite frankly I don't think they need to know any of this.

Brandon M. :

My pleasure. I really think that you'll be ok, but this can probably be diffused quickest, safest and with certainty through an attorney. I won't recommend an attorney for every situation, but CPS matters are too important. It's good that you are asking these questions now instead of after you have met with them.

Brandon M. :

Did you have any other question?

Customer:

No I think that is it, thanks again. We will secure someone quickly tomorrow.

Brandon M. :

Certainly. If you can't find an attorney tomorrow, CPS will just have to wait.

Brandon M. :

I wish you folks the best.

Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12,620
Experience: Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
Verified
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Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12,620
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