CPS Parent Resource Guide Cover

CPS Parent Resource Guide Part 5: Confidentiality


There are a couple different levels of confidentiality as far as a CPS case goes. The first of which is information that CPS is not entitled to by default. This largely pertains to things like medical records that are protected via federal law. Sometimes, it may be worthwhile to fight over the confidentiality of such information, but my experience in CPS leads me to believe that judges tend to order you to turn it over regardless, and also that any withholding of this type of information automatically reflects poorly on the person withholding it, even if their reasoning is simply a privacy issue. One related point is confidential information regarding people who are not parties to the lawsuit, but may be around the children. I think it is much more worthwhile to maintain confidentiality of this information, as it is near impossible for CPS to get access to it in other ways, and it is easy enough to pass the “blame” off on the other parties themselves citing privacy reasons.

The second level of confidentiality, and in my opinion the most important one, is information that is known to all the parties of the case, but that is confidential from the general public. Part of the reason that CPS is entitled to as much information as they are is because they are supposed to keep that information confidential themselves. They are not allowed to tell everyone you know about the details of the CPS investigation, though they often skirt this line or outright ignore it. If you do want to keep things private, make sure to watch the things you sign to make sure you aren’t waiving any of your rights to that effect, and in my opinion, it is worth a polite conversation with your caseworker to let them know your concerns and that you are watching to make sure things stay confidential. Suing CPS for breaching this duty rarely accomplishes anything productive, so it is usually better to try to head this issue off before it begins.

The third level is confidentiality between individual parties in the case, such as between yourself and your attorney. This is also an extremely important issue to pay attention to. For most every situation, the default mode of communication between you and your attorney is that it is confidential. This means that they are not allowed to tell other parties information that you tell them without your permission (for example, I routinely ask my clients “can I tell the other parties this information” in a situation that I think it would be helpful). This does not apply in every situation, such as if you are in a public place and everyone else can hear you anyway, however, it does apply to most. If you are worried about whether you are talking to your attorney confidentially, ask beforehand. One particular area that I run into occasionally that creates all sorts of issues for me is emails with inmates. Though technically these types of communication SHOULD be confidential, they are monitored by staff, and very well could be used against you. Courts have been somewhat split on the issue, but I think it is worth being cautious and not assuming you are speaking confidentially using the inmate email systems. When in doubt, though, checking with your attorney is the simplest plan.

Click to access Part-5-from-Child-Protective-Services-Parent-Resource-Guide-2015-2.pdf

For the full text of this guide, click here.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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