Motion to Intervene in Child Custody by the State of Arizona

motion to intervene in child custodyChild custody takes up a significant time in family court. While most of the time it is a dispute between two parents, there are times where the court will take the child into temporary custody. This blogpost will explain this Arizona procedure.

The Arizona Department of Child Welfare has the responsibility to intervene and take custody of a child if they believe or receive a report that a child is in physical or psychological danger.  A Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) report is defined in law.  ARS §8-802 states that an incoming communication to the child abuse hotline number (1-888-767-2445) contains an allegation that: a person presently under the age of 18 is the subject of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploiting which a parent, guardian, or custodian has inflicted, may inflict, permitted another person to inflict, or had reason to know another person may inflict and contains sufficient information to locate the child.

When DCS receives a report that meets the above requirements, they are legally obligated to intervene. Reports may come to the hotline above or a law enforcement office.  DCS will ask:

  1. Name, age, and gender of child and other family members
  2. Address, phone numbers, and/or directions to child’s home
  3. Parent’s place of employment
  4. Description of suspected abuse or neglect
  5. Current condition of the child.

If the information meets the report criteria, DCS will categorize the report by severity of the allegations to determine how quickly a response is made. Many people are required or called “mandatory reporters” when regarding child abuse. Those who are required by law to report are doctors, nurses, counselors, and social workers when you develop the reasonable belief in course of treating a patient. Peace officers, including members of the clergy, are also required to report. School personnel or domestic violence victim advocates who develop a reasonable belief in the course of their employment are required to report.  Lastly, any person who has responsibility for the care or treatment of the minor is required to report.

A person making a report or providing information about a child is immune from civil or criminal liability.

After a credible report is reported DCS will investigate. The law allows DCS to talk to alleged victims and their siblings without parent permission.  This discussion often begins at school. A DCS Specialist will make a home visit to discuss the report and speak with family members. After gathering information, a child and family assessment will be completed to identify services the family needs.  This could include counseling or other treatment.

Parents and others have the right to refuse to be interviewed by a DCS representative.  They may also refuse services.

DCS case investigators must file removal requests electronically where a judge or commissioner will decide to issue an order of removal. A recent report by AZ Central reported that 93% of the time requests for a court order to remove a child had been granted during a four month period.  That accounted for 1,938 children being removed.

IN “exigent circumstances” there is an exception to this court order. The two categories are:

  1. When the situation is so urgent there is not time to file a request with the court and
  2. When there is probable cause that a child has been sexually or physically abused.

The Department of Child Safety has an incredibly important role in Arizona society.  The media and the public should continue to review the department to ensure that DCS is doing their job correctly and diligently.

Click here for information on divorce and moving out of state in Arizona.