Failing to Protect Your Child Can Get You in Trouble With CPS
Video Transcribed: Must I allow visitation if I suspect child abuse? I’m Tulsa family law attorney James Wirth, and we’re talking about frequently asked questions related to Oklahoma family law. And that’s the question. If I have concerns about child abuse or neglect, do I have to allow visitation? And the answer is a little more complicated, but let’s go through it.
So first off, what is your scenario that you’re in? Is there any court order regarding visitation? If you are the legal custodian, the sole custodian, and there’s no visitation schedule provided to the other parent, then you’re not doing anything wrong, legally speaking, by not allowing visitation to the other side if you have legitimate concerns about child abuse because it’s not violating any court order.
Now, if there is a specific court order in place granting the other party visitation, but you suspect neglect or abuse is occurring in that household, you’re in a difficult spot because the court order says you have to do it. Violating a court order can be contempt of court, which is a misdemeanor, up to six months in jail.
On the other hand, failing to protect your child can get you in trouble with DPS, have your kids taken away by the state, perhaps by CPS in a deprived child action, or could actually get you criminal felony charges of permitting child abuse.
So luckily there’s a little bit of leeway in the law where it looks into this situation and that is in Oklahoma Statute, Title 43, Section 111.4. And what it says is, “A parent who in good faith and with reasonable belief supported by fact, determines that the child of a parent is the victim of child abuse or neglect or suffers from effects of domestic violence, may take necessary actions to protect the child, including refusing to permit visitation.”
So this is the statute that is your defense against an allegation of contempt of court if you have fears that child abuse or neglect is going on. You have facts to support them and you believe that in good faith.
You will still though want to follow that up by getting your evidence together and getting into court on an emergency. Don’t rest on that statute forever. Rest on that just long enough to get your evidence together to present it to a court, to get an emergency order or a modification.
So if you suspect child abuse, do you have to allow visitation if you’ve got a good basis for it? No. In fact, you can not allow visitation or you’re perhaps failing to protect your child. If you’re in that circumstance, though, you do have to balance these risks, so you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances. To talk to an Oklahoma fathers rights attorney at my office, go to makelaweasy.com.