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Protecting Children from Nonparent Third Parties

Child Protective Services (CPS)

This article looks at your options if you worry about your child's safety around third parties in the other parent's home.

Regardless of whether there is a court order in place, every parent has a duty under the Texas Family Code to protect their child. This may include involving the appropriate authorities when a child is at risk. Those authorities include Child Protective Services (CPS), law enforcement, and the courts. 

What if my concern is not about the other parent, but about someone else who lives in that parent’s home? 

Unless a court order says so, one parent generally cannot tell the other parent who they can allow around the child. Texas law assumes parents will make safe choices for a child, including who they allow around the child.    

If a parent allows their child to be around an individual who will harm the child, then that parent could be responsible for child neglect, even if that parent is not the one who caused direct harm. It is essential for a parent to gather as much information as possible and then take whatever action is necessary to protect the child. The first step could be talking to the other parent about your concerns and trying to agree on keeping the child safe.   

Can I call CPS?

If the other parent is unwilling to protect the child, you can report the situation to Statewide Intake (CPS). Child Protective Investigations may open a case and go out and talk to the other parent, see their home, and interview the child, among other things. Then they will decide if any protective action should be taken.  

Can I call law enforcement?

If the danger in the home involves criminal behavior, such as injury to a child or sexual crimes against a child, a report should also be made to law enforcement.    

What can a court do?

Depending on the situation, a parent may be able to take legal action to protect a child (even if CPS and law enforcement are not taking any action.)  Options may include filing a petition to modify the custody order, including seeking a temporary restraining order in an emergency or a protective order. If you know the other parent spends time with someone unsafe, the court may be willing to order that the parties not allow that individual to contact the child. You can speak to an attorney about your options. One resource for talking to an attorney is the Family Helpline at 844-888-6565. 

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