Q: Good evening do I have the right to stop answering questions with DCF and family services until I get a lawyer?
A: Yes, you have the right to consult with and be represented by a lawyer during an investigation by DCF. Anytime there is a domestic violence incident or arrest that involves or takes place in the presence of children, then under Connecticut law, DCF may commence an investigation regarding you and your family. It is important to know that the threshold for triggering a DCF investigation is very low. Statutory mandated “reporters” (teachers, therapist, police officers, etc.) are required to report merely “suspected” abuse or neglect of minors. So bruises from the playground or the wild imagination of a child can open a nightmare intrusion into a family’s private business by DCF. Moreover, mandated “reporters” are commonly over cautious when making reports because failure to pick up on and report any suspected abuse can have criminal and civil penalties for that failure.
If you or your lawyer do not protect your privacy rights (and your child’s), then DCF can speak to all the care providers (teachers, doctors, coaches, et.) in your child’s life. After DCF completes a full Investigation, they will issue a report that will incorporate their findings and conclusions as to whether the allegations are “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated.”
Do not let the investigation get this far without contacting and, perhaps retaining, an attorney so as not to jeopardize your parental rights. Indeed, the ultimate power of DCF is that the department can remove a child from your home. The DCF records will also be preserved and can, sometimes, be used against you in future proceedings.
People often believe that an attorney is not necessary for DCF investigations because they maintain they have not done anything wrong. However, while DCF investigations may start out small, investigations can quickly escalate in severity and depth and, in some cases, matters will be referred to law enforcement. So if you are being investigated by DCF, you should contact a Connecticut lawyer immediately.
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