Divorces are tumultuous for anyone. People have been known to say things they don’t mean or blow things out of proportion. Sometimes, those involved even blatantly make things up—hoping for an edge, when it comes to custody, support, or to simply ruin their ex’s reputation. This is an incredibly difficult position for those involved and if the allegations are criminal, they can have dire consequences. When complicated family cases have far-reaching and devastating implications, you need an attorney, well-versed in how domestic and criminal cases can affect each other.
When a couple in the Roanoke area decided to divorce after several years of marriage, the issue of custody regarding their two small children and teenage stepdaughter from the wife’s previous marriage came into dispute. What made a relatively common divorce issue infinitely more complex were the sudden allegations of molestation to Child Protective Services (CPS), involving the husband and his stepdaughter. In addition to creating a criminal case and destroying the only paternal relationship this girl ever knew, a very restrictive custody order for the man’s biological children was also put in place, where he was only allowed supervised visits until the CPS order was cleared.
Attorney Michelle Derrico represented this father and first worked to remove the fear of a criminal conviction for such a grievous felony, which would assuredly result in time behind bars. By presenting the inconsistencies in the girl’s statement, attorney Derrico showed the jury the obvious flaws in the case. Once her client was acquitted of the criminal charge, this still left the task of correcting the CPS report and lifting the harsh custody plan, which had continued for almost a year at this point.
After reviewing the procedure for how CPS investigations were conducted, it was clear that several oversights led to her client’s situation. Essentially, and without any real scientific backing, Roanoke County used a 12-part document to establish a credible allegation of abuse. Parts one through eight ascertain if a claim is credible and nine through 12 are reserved for why the allegation may be questionable. Amazingly, in this case, the second half was completely blank. During the CPS appeal, attorney Derrico questioned this practice. Specifically, how could an accurate report be made if both sides are not equally considered? The social worker did not have a satisfactory response, simply stating that it was common to leave this part incomplete. By showing the Hearing Officer the trial video and what amounted to a systemic issue of rubber stamping abuse findings, the CPS order was reversed.
Unfortunately, this did not automatically lift her client’s custody restrictions. To effectively be reunited with his children, despite being found not guilty in court and having the CPS abuse order lifted, in an ordeal that lasted well over a year, this father still needed to appear at a custody hearing. Attorney Derrico articulated the steps taken, his full compliance with the order, and the ultimate court findings. In the end, and due in large part to the steadfast legal representation he received through a horrible and grueling experience, this father could now be part of his children’s lives and free to move on.
The outcome of an individual case depends on a variety of factors unique to that case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any similar or future case.