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When emotions are running high in the divorce process, it is not uncommon for people to amplify their concerns over an ex-spouse’s ability to parent. In some cases, those concerns might lead to allegations of child abuse and neglect. What is the right course of action when you suspect an ex-spouse of substance abuse or mental health issues? What can you do to ensure the health and safety of your children without overreacting? What happens once Child Protective Services gets involved?

Allison Williams is the founder and owner of Williams Law Group, a practice focused exclusively on matrimonial and family law with an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. An established leader in the field of child welfare law, Allison has appeared on several media outlets including Katie, News 12 New Jersey and Chasing News, and she lectures regularly for professional organizations like the Institute for Continuing Legal Education. In 2017, she was recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for the fourth consecutive year.

Today, Allison sits down with Katherine to define child abuse and neglect, the two categories of child welfare addressed in the Adoption & Safe Families Act. She explains the legal risk associated with failing to ensure your child’s safety when they are in the care of an ex-spouse—specifically in cases where substance abuse or mental health issues are present. Allison walks us through the CPS investigation process, offering insight around how the circumstances of divorce may influence a case worker’s assessment of an allegation’s credibility. Listen in to understand why CPS has a statutory responsibility to reach a conclusion once a case has been opened and learn what to expect once the process is set in motion.


The two categories of child welfare addressed in the Adoption & Safe Families Act

  • Physical, sexual abuse
  • Neglect

Divorced parents with substance abuse/mental health issues who lack safeguards

The legal risk involved in not taking a firm stance on an ex-spouse’s ability to parent

The Child Protective Services investigation process

  • Initial assessment within 48 hours
  • 60 days to make determination

The three CPS designations in substantiated cases

  • Actual harm, imminent risk and substantial risk

Why case workers consider divorce in assessing the credibility of allegations

Why divorce is not considered in cases of alleged sexual abuse

CPS’s statutory responsibility to reach a conclusion once a case is opened

Why a divorcing parent who contacted CPS has no authority to withdraw their case

The collateral contacts who may be interviewed by case workers in an investigation

The confidential nature of CPS records


Williams Law Group

Call (908) 810-1083


The Adoption and Safe Families Act


The Center for Understanding Conflict

Miller Law Group

Katherine on LinkedIn

The New Yorker’s Guide to Collaborative Divorce by Katherine Miller

Email katherine@westchesterfamilylaw.com

Call (914) 738-7765