Each state has its own Child Protection Services (CPS) agency which is responsible for protecting children’s health and welfare. CPS investigation can be painful and stressful for both parents and children. However, the emotional crisis alone does not give you the right to sue CPS. Since CPS social workers are government agents, they can not work in ways that violate your established civil rights. An excessive CPS worker may violate your constitutional right due process, or your security with improper search and seizure. When this happens, you may be able to sue for monetary damages.
Building Your Case
Make chronological outline of events. Start with your first encounter with the CPS, prepare an account of each encounter or communication you have with CPS social workers and other staff members.
Write the names of each person, job title and direct contact information in CPS, who has contacted you or contacted you in any way.
You also want to outline other activities that have nothing to do with your children or the reasons CPS is connected to your children.
Collect any related documents and other evidence. You should have already documented every conversation with CPS. All these records are now proof that you can use in your lawsuit.
If you had written documents that you can not find now, then note them. CPS should also be copies, and you can request them later.
You want to collect any document that has nothing to do with the care of your children. For example, if you are doing school education for your children, then collect school events, assignments and courses and make copies.
Consult an attorney. Civil rights litigation in the federal court is extremely complex. If you have decided to sue CPS for violating your constitutional rights, then you need an experienced civil rights lawyer to represent you.
Civil Rights Lawyers usually provide a free initial consultation, so you can use this opportunity to talk to many lawyers. That can help you choose the best lawyer for your case.
These cases can be extended for a long time. Choose an attorney who is passionate about your case and whom you meet with – you will spend a lot of time with them, and discuss some potentially sensitive issues.
If you have been brought to criminal charges of child abuse or neglect, then you may already have a criminal defense lawyer. Ask them for a referral for civil rights lawyers who can help you to sue CPS.
Identify an established right. The first hurdle you face is a specific, constitutional right, which CPS violated while working with you and your children. This is a legal argument. Your lawyer will review your documents and notes to determine which of your civil rights has been violated in your situation.
This is one reason for documenting all your interactions with CPS. Something that you feel inappropriate, does not necessarily increase to the level of constitutional infringement. However, something that you think is unimportant may actually be a big deal.
Calculate your loss. You must have heard of parents who had filed hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in CPS. However, the amount of money should be directly related to the violation of your rights.
Your lawyer will start with the real damages, if you have someone. For example, if you and your spouse are seeing a counselor as a result of the trauma you experienced while dealing with CPS, then that expenditure can be considered a real loss.
Additional losses, known as punitive damages, may be available to you if the action of the CPS Social Workers involved in your case was particularly eccentric.
Initiating Your Lawsuit
File a complaint. Generally, complaints are not very detailed. However, a complaint in the federal court accusing civil rights violations requires more information than a specific complaint. If the violation has not been properly explained, the trial can be thrown. That’s why you need an experienced civil rights lawyer.
When you file your complaint, you do not need to prove anything or provide any proof at this point, you are only accusing.
Your lawyer will file your complaint in the federal district court, which has jurisdiction over the county where the CPS agency is located. You may have to pay a $ 400 filing fee, or your lawyer can pay it and add money to your litigation costs.
Give CPS service with complaint. Once your complaint has been filed, the CPS should be informed about the suit so that it has an opportunity to respond. Your lawyer will usually have a complaint against the records of the CPS for lawyers.
Evaluate the response from CPS. When CPS is served with your complaint, the agency has a limited duration to file a response in court. A copy of that written reply will be given to your lawyer.
Your lawyer will respond with you. Typically, the answer will deny all allegations and will increase the defense of qualified immunity.
The response to the CPS may include a proposal for a summary decision. Similar to an offer to dismiss, this proposal argues that you have failed to tell a claim for which the court can provide legal or monetary relief.
Take part in summary decision hearings. When you sue CPS, the agency will increase the defense of potentially qualified immunity. While technically a defense, if the court gives the agency (and its social worker) the right immunity, then you will not be able to sue the agency.
When CPS argues that it deserves qualified immunity, the judge should take a hearing to decide this question, before you can proceed with the trial. Until this matter is settled, you will not be able to collect any other work or information on your trial.
Your lawyer and the CPS lawyer will argue on both sides of the issue and will put a lot of speculation in the court. Judges can decide the question after reading these briefs, or they may have a hearing in court.
If Judge CPS denies immunity, you can still not move forward in the next phase of litigation. CPS has the right to appeal that decision and an appeal court argues that the agency deserves qualified immunity.
Going to Trial
Send written questions and requests to the CPS. Provided that CPSs are not entitled to immunity, you will proceed on the search phase. You will work with your lawyer to make written questions and requests for documents, which should be answered by the CPS.
You will request a complete case file for your family related CPS, as well as any internal documents including email, which are related to your family’s investigation.
Answers to documents and questions can reveal additional problems or violations, which you did not know about earlier.
Submit to the social workers involved in this. An interview under an oath is an interview. Because a lot of your case depends on the subjective beliefs and interpretations of social workers involved in it, these deposits will be important.
You may or may not need to be included in the deposit. Your lawyer wants you there, or they can decide that this is better if you are not there.
Whether you are present, your lawyer will go with you to the statement later and explain how this affects your case.
Prepare for your own statement. The lawyer for the CPS might possibly want to depose you. Your solicitors will meet with you on potential questions that will be received at least once, and will tell you how to answer the questions of statements.
Generally, you want to answer questions straightforwardly and honestly, but want to avoid gambling or further conversation. For example, if you are asked a question, then your answer will be “yes” or “no”, without extension.
Question answers from CPS. The way the agency sent written questions to CPS, the agency will also send written questions for your reply. Your lawyer will draft specific answers after consulting with you.
Your lawyer may object to some questions. If they do, they will explain to you why you do not have to answer those questions.
Even though these questions are in writing, they are still considered under oath. Answer every question honestly and accurately as you can. If you do not remember, do not guess.
Participate in a pre-trial hearing. Judges usually conduct several hearings to ensure the trial on the track and on progress. You do not have to be individually involved in many of these hearings or meetings. Your attorney will update you what happened.
Evaluate any settlement proposals. The lawsuits in the federal court rarely make it for hearing. Discovery can stretch for months, and most of the lawsuits like settling the case to avoid the uncertainty of the lawsuit. The judge can encourage negotiation or preside over the settlement conference.
Any settlement proposal of CPS will be notified to your attorney. Your lawyer will offer you a proposal and give them advice. Regardless of the recommendation of your lawyer, the decision to accept or reject the settlement is yours.