Redefining the Role of Child Protective Services in Arizona

Q: When can Arizona case workers remove a child from their home?

One of the most contentious issues that Phoenix family law attorneys encounter involves child custody and visitation.

In Arizona, child custody and visitation is referred to as “legal decision-making’ and “parenting time”, respectively. So long as it is in the best interest of the children, courts generally prefer that legal decision-making and parenting time is shared relatively equally so that both parents enjoy access to their children and input into the important decisions related to them.

Sometimes, agreed-upon or court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements need to be changed in light of a change of circumstances. In such cases, parents can seek a modification order from the court.

Unfortunately, in other situations, such as domestic violence, there may not be time for court intervention. Sometimes emergency intervention is required.

The Arizona foster care system is overburdened with children that were hastily removed from their homes on an emergency basis, which in hindsight may have been unnecessary in many cases. In an effort to ease the burden and reduce the trauma that children reportedly suffer when being removed from their albeit undesirable family homes, their support systems, schools, and friends only to be placed in the foster care system, legislators have committed to reform the current system.

The proposed reforms support the premise that a warrant should be required before a child welfare worker can remove a child from their home. A 24/7 judge on-call would facilitate this during non-business hours. The exception to obtaining a warrant would be when “exigent circumstances” are present and the situation is so dire that the child could “face serious risk to their life, physical health or mental welfare” that there is no time for a judge’s approval and immediate action is required. A five-point criterion in identifying whether a “present danger” exists would be established as the benchmark test for workers to justify the removal of children without a warrant.

Of course, these emergency situations happen in all settings where children reside, not just those involving children of divorce.

If you are considering divorce or need help establishing or modifying child custody or visitation determinations, or are experiencing a domestic violence situation, Cohen Family Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our office in Phoenix, we’ve been helping families in transition since 1982 throughout Arizona.