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Defending yourself in a CINA case

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2024 | Child Support & Custody |

Being accused of abusing or neglecting your child can make you feel like you are living a nightmare. An accusation of child abuse or neglect can haunt you for the rest of your life.

Once an accusation is alleged, the situation can quickly spiral out of control and you may feel overwhelmed, scared and unsure of what to do next, especially if you know the accusation is false.

False accusations of child abuse or neglect do happen for various reasons. Once you learn of an abuse or neglect allegation, you must act quickly to defend yourself.

When the Department of Social Services (DSS) receives a report of abuse or neglect of a child, they file a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) petition.

Steps in a CINA case

After that, CINA cases commonly go through four stages. The first involves shelter care. DSS may place a child in emergency shelter care before a court hearing in certain situations. You must receive notice if your child is placed in shelter care.

The next stage is a hearing, which must be held within 30 days if your child is in shelter care or within 60 days if they are not.

At the hearing, the court determines if the facts in the CINA petition are true. The abuse or neglect accusations must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

This is a lesser standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. It essentially means that the court must decide if it is likely that the abuse or neglect occurred.

What happens if I lose the CINA hearing?

If the court determines that the abuse and neglect allegations were proven, your child will likely be placed in foster care or with a third-party. If the allegations are not proven, the CINA case will be dismissed and your child will be returned to you.

When a CINA case is proven, the case moves to the final stage, which is permanency planning. CINA hearings must be held every six months to review the status of the case and determine what is in your child’s best interest.

This could include placing them back with you, with a relative, giving custody to a third-party or starting the adoption process.

Although courts typically give priority to reunifying a child with a parent, the idea of spending even one night without your child might be unacceptable.

Common defenses to a child abuse or neglect charge

This is why you must act fast if you learn you are the subject of a CINA petition. There are many defenses to a child abuse or neglect charge that could apply to your case.

Children sometimes falsely accuse a parent of abuse or neglect. Older children may do it to get back at a parent they are angry with, while younger children who cannot communicate as effectively may make a statement that someone interprets as an abuse allegation.

Children of any age may be pressured by a parent to accuse the other parent of child abuse. The other parent could make a false allegation to gain an advantage in a custody proceeding.

Other potential defenses include injuries to a child being from an accident or non-abusive activity, such as playing sports. Sometimes parents appropriately discipline their child without intending to be abusive or cause serious physical harm.

A child abuse charge should be taken very seriously. Understanding your rights and how to defend yourself can make a huge difference in the outcome of a CINA case.