Family BondingCan I Call CPS for Parental Alienation?

Can I call cps for parental alienation

Can I Call CPS for Parental Alienation?

If you think a divorce is rough, wait until you get into a parental custody battle with your ex. If your ex is toxic, he/she will use every trick in the book to turn your child/children against you and take full custody of the children. If they can’t do so by legal means, toxic exes can often engage in parental alienation.

When faced with parental alienation and an unruly ex, one of your first instincts might be to turn to CPS (Child Protective Services) for help. And while you’re completely free to do so if required, most legal experts, counselors, and expert psychologists will tell you not to, and for good reason. Let’s see what is the deal with Child Protective Services and answer the question, ‘Can I call CPS for parental alienation’ in more detail!

A Basic Rundown of CPS

A basic rundown of cps
A basic rundown of cps

Originally established in 1974 as CAPTA, the Child Protective Services (CPS) has long since gone from a small organization primarily meant to deal with child abuse cases among minorities to a full-blown nationwide organization monitoring and attempting to stop child abuse at all costs. But since its inception, it’s also garnered a very negative reception as well, and for good reasons.

The primary task of CPS is to investigate any and all reports of child abuse and neglect. They’ve got vast resources at their disposal and their investigation processes can be long and arduous. Starting from the parents and relatives to neighbors, school teachers, nannies, and family friends, CPS personnel will sit down and interview everyone involved in the child/children’s lives.

A CPS investigation can be costly, adding on top of your legal fees, and takes months if not years to reach a resolution as they work with the police, attorneys, schools, and other related organizations. But as long as you’re contacting them with concrete evidence of physical and mental abuse of children, they can be a good backup in court during a custody battle.

While the intentions of the organization are good, layers and layers of bureaucracy and more than a handful of bad apples have given it a very negative public image.

A Basic Rundown of Parental Alienation

A basic rundown of parental alienation
A basic rundown of parental alienation

In an ideal world, if a couple with children divorce then they would share the custody of their children equally while teaching them to respect their other parent. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and in a lot of cases, a vindictive ex will try to pit the children against the other parent by using a wide range of dirty tactics that will make your skin crawl.

These include slandering the other parent, making false accusations about them, encouraging the child to misbehave or be spiteful when with the other parent, talking down the other parent in front of other friends and family members, and more.

Parental alienation can be devastating for both the alienated parent and the child as successful parental alienation results in a bad relationship between the child and alienated parent which might take years to fix into adulthood, or in certain cases, never at all which is sad but happens often. What makes things more infuriating is the vagueness or lack of a legal definition of parental alienation. In many states, it’s not even a legal term, but most judges, attorneys, and lawmakers are aware of it.

Should You Call CPS for Parental Alienation?

Let’s be very clear about a couple of things first before answering the question of whether you should call the CPS for parental alienation. CPS is first and foremost an investigative agency- its personnel are trained to detect and indicate signs of child abuse and neglect and take steps to relocate the child if the home environment isn’t deemed fit.

Parental alienation falls in a gray area within their jurisdiction as it’s not technically classified as child neglect and abuse. So while you can certainly call them depending on your circumstances, calling them up with a parental alienation complaint is not a good idea. It will be a traumatic experience for both you and the children as the kids will be moved to foster care during the course of the investigation.

That’s the last thing you want to happen to your kids over a parental alienation quarrel, as 25% of child maltreatment in the US happens at foster homes. Here are some solid reasons why you shouldn’t get in touch with the CPS for any parental alienation issues:

False or Improper Allegations Can Result in Loss of Child Custody

A common mistake many alienated parents make when making a parental alienation complaint to the CPS is not having enough evidence. The CPS doesn’t operate on feeling- they operate on concrete evidence. So if it turns out that there’s no definitive indication of parental alienation during the investigation, you might end up losing custody of the child.

That’s why it’s very important that you contact your attorney first before making such a major move. He/she will be able to objectively evaluate the whole situation and advise whether you should get in touch with the CPS or not.

Your Child/Children Will Be Removed from Home

When you involve the CPS in a custody battle, it can have unwanted and untold effects on your child’s mental health. Starting a CPS investigation means your child will be removed from the custody of both parents and placed in foster care for the duration of the investigation.

The experience can be scary, confusing, and traumatic, especially for children of young age who are emotionally dependent on their parents. Unless you’ve strong suspicions that your ex is also abusing the child alongside committing parental alienation, the blowback can be severe for the children.

CPS Investigations Are Stressful

When the CPS starts a complaint investigation, they will figuratively turn over the heavens and earth to find the slightest shred of evidence. This means not only interviews with you and your ex but family members, doctors, neighbors, school teachers, therapists, caretakers, and even attorneys.

They can follow through with their inquiries with a single person multiple times, which can definitely be stressful for all involved. All this investigation might take years to complete and by the time your child returns home, you’ll be barely able to recognize them.

Bad Faith Actors in the CPS

The CPS is supposed to be a shining beacon of hope for children and parents who’ve been wronged or abused, so how did it become associated with such a negative image where some even go as far as to label them as child stealers? It’s all because of a couple of bad-faith actors within the CPS.

Child abuse under CPS care has been a common occurrence since the ‘80s. Thousands of children under CPS care admit that they were either mentally and physically abused by the CPS workers or the foster care they were placed in. The agency’s lawyers are kept quite busy covering up all these allegations and abuse.

There also have been countless reports of CPS workers simply abusing their powers and removing children from their homes for no reason. Many parents and children have also complained over the years that the CPS paid no heed to their complaints until the damage was done. In short, it’s safe to say that the agency does more harm than good in the long run.

Once You Pull the Trigger There’s No Going Back

Understand that once the CPS is involved in your family affairs, there’s no turning back until the investigation is complete. Even if you impulsively made a report, you cannot call off the investigation letter even by making a formal request. So make sure that CPS is your last option when faced with parental alienation.

CPS reps have a reputation for making everyone’s life involved in the investigation a total misery. Even your family members might not appreciate the hassle that comes with a CPS investigation. The good news is, that there are better alternatives to CPS to resolve parental alienation issues without causing trauma and hassle to your children and family members.

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Alternatives to CPS for Parental Alienation

The good news is CPS isn’t the only party to turn to for help if you’re a parent who’s a victim of parental alienation. There are multiple ways to go about dealing with parental alienation, the most common 3 are discussed below:

  • Have a proper and open conversation with your ex in the presence of a third party. Unless your ex is a psychotic individual, it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince them of the long-term impact parental alienation can have not only on you but your children as well.
  • If a heart-to-heart conversation with your ex doesn’t work, you can enlist the services of a counselor or therapist to resolve the issues. Usually, the court will appoint one by default if the judge deems that the custody battle is getting too complicated or affecting the child/children’s mental health.
  • If you believe that your child/children are under threat of physical and mental abuse alongside parental alienation manipulations, you can apply for a court restraining order against your ex. Luckily for you, toxic parents who engage in parental alienation tactics often make the child/children go through physical or mental abuse to maintain control over them.

In most cases, these alternatives are more than enough if you have enough evidence backed up proving parental alienation.

Preparing for a CPS Investigation

Preparing for a cps investigation

If all other methods of reconciliation fail and your ex shows no sign of relenting in their parental alienation efforts, it might be time for you to file a CPS complaint no matter what. But before doing so, you need to thoughtfully prepare for the proceedings as one wrong move on your part can jeopardize the whole situation.

Here are the step-by-step instructions you need to follow to ensure that a CPS investigation works in your favor:

  • First gather any and all evidence of parental alienation. Parental alienation is very hard to prove unless conversations are recorded on the spot. A suitable alternative is to keep a journal and keep track of your child/children’s behavior every time they come around or spend time with you.
  • Emails, texts, messages, and social media posts from your ex and kids should be saved and recorded as evidence too if they contain hints of parental alienation.
  • Once you have all the evidence and documentation ready, it’s time to call up the CPS and make a formal complaint.
  • Once the complaint has been made, the CPS will start its investigation by interviewing you and your ex first. Once you two have been interrogated, the CPS reps will then interview the kids and everyone associated with the kids’ lives to get a full picture.
  • Depending on the result of the investigation the CPS can order any number of steps starting from therapy, alteration to child custody court orders, or removal and relocation of the child to a foster home where they hopefully will have better care.


1. If not CPS, who can I count on for parental alienation support and resolution?

Lawyers, doctors, and therapists provide good support for parental alienation, but your best bet is appealing to a family court.

2. What’s the best way to communicate with an ex who’s engaged in parental alienation against you?

The best way to communicate with an ex who’s engaged in parental alienation against you is by meeting them directly with a counselor or attorney present.

3. Is parental alienation against the mother a common phenomenon?

No. While there are instances of parental alienation against mothers, it’s usually the moms who engage in parental alienation practices against the fathers.

Final Thoughts

Parental alienation isn’t an easy issue to deal with, and it might be very tempting to call in the CPS to bring an unruly toxic ex in check. But the cons outweigh the pros in this particular scenario, so it’s highly advised that you refrain from contacting the CPS for parental alienation issues.

Instead, you can rely on a wide number of alternatives to resolve the issue and normalize the relationship with your child again. The potential trauma your child/children will have to go through if CPS gets involved in your family affairs can be quite damaging, so try to avoid calling CPS unless it’s an absolute must.

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Tyler S. Rios, a parent of two, shares her valuable insights into family life. Her blogs focus on parent-child relationships and navigating family conflicts. Tyler's wealth of experience empowers readers to handle family challenges with resilience and resolution.

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