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Child Protective Services: The Removal Process

Child Protective Services (CPS)

This article discusses the removal process in Child Protective Services cases.

Here, learn what to expect during the removal process in a case where Child Protective Services is involved. Understand the differences between removals with and without court orders, the timeline, possible outcomes, and families' rights. 

This article was written by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and the Family Helpline at Texas Legal Services Center.  

Seek Legal Advice if CPS Acts to Remove Your Child

If DFPS seeks to formally remove your child, seek legal advice. Call the Family Helpline.

If DFPS seeks to remove a child legally, they must file a petition called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, an affidavit containing the allegations that necessitate the request for removal, and request that a court name DFPS Temporary Managing Conservator of the child.

Be aware that the caseworker will use information gathered during the investigation and FBSS phases when preparing the affidavit. If DFPS requests a removal, they may ask a parent to allow DFPS to obtain temporary custody of their child voluntarily.

A parent is not obligated to agree with the removal of their child and may want to consult an attorney before making this decision. 

Emergency Removal

  1. Removal without a court order: DFPS can remove a child without a court order in some emergency circumstances. If DFPS removes a child from a parent or legal guardian without a court order, DFPS must file a SAPCR, request that the court appoint an attorney ad litem for the child, and request an initial hearing no later than the next business day after the emergency removal. DFPS may have the hearing without the parents present, which is called an ex parte hearing.

  2. Removal with a court order: DFPS can request that a court sign an order to remove a child from the parents in an ex parte hearing without the parents present. If DFPS obtains an order authorizing the emergency removal of a child, DFPS may remove the child from the parents after obtaining the order. 

Contesting Removal

If a parent does not agree with a court ordering emergency temporary managing conservatorship of their child to DFPS, the parent may contest the emergency removal and ask that a full hearing with evidence be conducted where DFPS must be able to show they can meet their legal burden to seek the removal of the child. If a court does not find that DFPS has met its legal burden to be given Temporary Managing Conservatorship of a child, the child should be returned to a parent. If a court does find that DFPS has met its legal burden to be given Temporary Managing Conservatorship of a child, then a temporary order will be issued naming DFPS as the Temporary Managing Conservator of the Child, and the case will proceed with the conservatorship unit of DFPS. 

Contesting an Emergency Removal

Within 14 days from the date of an emergency removal, a hearing should be set so the Court can decide whether or not DFPS should continue as Temporary Managing Conservator of a child

If the court will not be hearing evidence at this time, you may request a full evidentiary hearing set on a later date where DFPS must show they can meet the legal burden to remove a child from a parent. If a parent requests a full evidentiary hearing, a parent may provide their own evidence to support their position against removal and may be required to testify. Any parent contesting a removal of their children should seek the legal advice of an attorney before deciding to move forward with a full evidentiary hearing.

If a court-appointed attorney has not yet been appointed for a parent before the 14-day hearing, a parent may also ask whether the court will appoint an attorney to represent the parent. If a parent has not yet hired or been appointed an attorney before the 14-Day Adversary hearing is held, a parent may request a continuance or extension of the hearing of not more than seven days in order to seek legal representation. Texas Family Code 262.201(a-5).

Burden of Proof

To meet their legal burden to be named Temporary Managing Conservator of a child when DFPS has removed a child in an emergency situation, Texas Family Code 262.201(g) requires that DFPS must be able to show that a person of “ordinary prudence and caution” could reasonably make the following findings:
  1. There was a danger to the physical health or safety of the child caused by an act or failure to act on the part of the parent or the person entitled to possession of the child, and for the child to remain in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child;
  2. The urgent need for protection required immediate removal and that reasonable efforts consistent with the circumstances and providing for the safety of the child were made to eliminate or prevent removal; and 
  3. Reasonable efforts have been made to enable the child to return home, but there is a substantial risk of continuing danger if the child returned home.


An attorney representing DFPS will likely provide evidence to support DFPS’s request for Temporary Managing Conservatorship of a child in the form of documents, video and audio recordings (if available), and witness testimony. A parent’s attorney may also put on evidence as to why the court should not grant DFPS temporary custody of a parent’s child. The attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child will also participate in the hearing and will likely question witnesses and may present their own evidence. Parents may be required to testify in these hearings and are often questioned by all attorneys in the case.

Any parent seeking a contested evidentiary hearing should talk to a lawyer before testifying. 

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