Taking children away from their biological parents is not an easy task, nor is it taken lightly. The recent controversy surrounding the twin children of Brooke Mueller and Charlie Sheen serves to bring this issue to the forefront. When one parent is considered a danger to the children, the other parent may have no choice but to end the marriage for the sake of the children.
In a relationship like Mueller and Sheen's, it may be unclear at first why Sheen would need to take such a drastic step. However, a look at the policies of Child Protective Services may show why strong measures may be necessary to retain custody of his children.
What Criteria Does Child Protective Services Consider?
Child Protective Services, commonly referred to as "CPS," is the governmental agency in charge of deciding the very difficult question of when children should be removed from their parents. Most central to determining this child custody issue is discovering if there is a threat of danger present. When establishing if threat exists, a CPS worker looks for out-of-control behavior by the parents and immediate and severe consequences. Often when these circumstances exist, the only way to protect the child is to remove that child from the situation.
The CPS worker also must examine the parental home to determine whether the home is safe. The worker will look at the parents and extended family that may live with the child -- would the threat exist if certain circumstances were changed? This is important in evaluating the threat to the child.
While there may be different measures of danger, when determining a safe environment for a child, generally if one or both parents are exhibiting violent or dangerous behavior, this is considered a very clear threat. To use the Sheen/Mueller situation as an example, the court may look at Mueller's alleged drug addiction and determine that it makes her a dangerous parent. On the other hand, the fact that she is actively pursuing rehabilitation for this addiction may demonstrate to the court that she is trying to take control of her life and may no longer be a threat. The court takes the CPS's recommendations into consideration, but ultimately has the discretion to weigh the facts of the case and the actions/behaviors of the parents to determine if danger is present to the child and if removal from the parent(s) custody is warranted.
Further, because domestic violence is frequently a factor in couples pursuing a divorce, custody battles and domestic violence are often related. For parents that try to obtain custody of their child, CPS will still look into any threats that parent poses to the child. The child's best interests and safety are always the most important factors for CPS. When a parent is violent towards his or her spouse, this can be a reason for the CPS worker to have a heightened awareness of possible danger to the child.
So, if a parent, such as Mueller, is deemed to be a threat to the children due to drug addiction or other factors, then CPS may decide to remove the children from the house. Of course, this would be devastating for both parents. The ramifications for one dangerous parent may affect the entire family, parents and children.
If you have questions about divorce of the impact that domestic violence may have on your ability to keep your child, speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area. A lawyer can examine your specific situation, explain your legal rights and help you determine your best options.