Accused of Child Abuse or Neglect? Here’s What You Need to Know

Being accused of child abuse or neglect is a serious allegation that can have dire consequences. The outcome of a child protective proceeding can ultimately impact custody, visitation, related criminal matters, and, in some instances, the accused’s employment. If you are a mother or father who has been accused of child abuse or neglect, it is imperative that you seek the guidance of an experienced in the area of child protective proceedings.

What is a Child Protective Proceeding?
A child protective proceeding occurs when a petition is filed by a child-protective services agency asking the family court to step in to protect a child under the assumption the child (under the age of 18) has been abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected. In New York City, petitions are filed by the Administration of Child Services. In Long Island, petitions are filed by the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services.

The family court will hold hearings to review the allegations and determine whether neglect or abuse has occurred and what action the court should take to protect the child.

Child welfare proceedings could involve all or some of the following:

  1. Petition or pre-petition removal request
  2. Emergency Protection Order, if necessary
  3. Temporary Orders as necessary, Emergency Removal as necessary
  4. Fact-finding Hearing or Adjudicatory Trial
  5. Dispositional Hearing
  6. Permanency Hearing
  7. Termination of Parental Rights Hearing

What happens after the petition is filed?
Following a referral of alleged child abuse or neglect, an investigation of the suspected or reported abuse or neglect will occur. Not all jurisdictions require a court order to launch an investigation. 

If it is determined that the child is not at imminent risk, he or she can remain in the care of his or her parents. In this instance, the investigation will (a)  either conclude as unfounded, meaning that no credible evidence was found, or (2) be deemed indicated, which means that some evidence of abuse or neglect was found. In instances where the investigation finds some evidence of abuse or neglect, the investigating agency may file a neglect petition. A neglect petition does not necessarily mean that neglect has been determined. 

What if it is determined that the child is at imminent risk?
If it is determined that the child is safety or well-being is in imminent risk, the agency can file a request for an emergency protection order (Family Court Act Article 10) to temporarily remove the child from the home. 

The parent or parents will be entitled to an emergency hearing in order to either bring the child back home (if removed on an emergency basis) or a hearing prior to the removeal. The agency must provide the parent or parents a written notice that the child is to be removed and specify what charges are pending against them.

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect, do you need to hire a lawyer?
A parent who has had a petition filed against him or her under alleging child abuse or neglect should hire an attorney to protect his or her legal rights and represent them. If a parent cannot afford to hire an attorney, he or she may ask the court to provide one.

An attorney, also known as an “Attorney for Child,” will be assigned to represent the child in the proceedings.

If you or your spouse has been accused of child abuse or neglect, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York child abuse and neglect defense lawyer. Heather A. Fig of the Law Office of Heather A. Fig, Attorney at Law, P.L.L.C. has represented clients in hundreds of child abuse and neglect matters with successful outcomes for her clients. For more information about our legal services or to schedule a consultation with Heather A. Fig, call (631) 363-6569 or fill out our contact form.

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