The referral can have a very serious adverse impact on custody. Agency investigations always generate records. Anytime an agency employee speaks to someone about the claims that lead to the agency being contacted, the agency personnel must document that. Who said what to whom, where, and what was done about it? Also, the agency personnel will include things such as the perceptions of the parties, their candor, and any behavior that they saw during the course of speaking with them.
That information then becomes evidence. Custody evaluators almost always want to see the agency record generated because they want to know if someone is misrepresenting information for purposes of their divorce or if they’re simply trying to convey one parent more negatively than the other for purposes of custody.
If a party called the CPS agency on the other parent, an evaluator may see this as a sign of vindictiveness or, worse, parental alienation. If allegations of child abuse and neglect are validated by the agency, the parent who’s accused may be restricted from having unfettered access during the pendency of the divorce. You can have one parent who could have served as the primary parent but is now having such limited access to the child because of alleged concerns for child abuse that that parent has a lesser relationship with the child by the time the custody evaluator meets with them. That, of course, will prejudice their findings. They’ll look to the parent and say, “Well, you don’t have as strong a bond as perhaps the other parent does because that person was kept away.”
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com