After disclosure of child sexual abuse, Law Enforcement and the Department of Human Services/Child Welfare (DHS/CW) investigate the report. A prosecuting attorney will be appointed by the Office of District Attorneys. Law enforcement will provide supporting evidence to the prosecutor. If sufficient cause exists for prosecution, charges will be authorized against the offender, who may then be arrested. If the sexual abuse was perpetrated by a family member, DHS will make a determination regarding the child's safety. Either law enforcement or DHS can immediately remove the child from parental care if the nonoffending parent is unable or unwilling to protect the child, if nonoffending parent does not believe the child's disclosure of sexual abuse and/or is unable/unwilling to support the child. If prior reports have been received by law enforcement and DHS, the child may be perceived to be in imminent danger. At dependency hearing an attorney may be appointed for the child. The offender will obtain an attorney, and if unable to afford, may be provided court-appointed attorney. Types of attorneys and court cases include:

Prosecutor. The prosecuting attorney's role is to represent the entire community, not just the child who was abused. The prosecutor decides how the case is conducted and whether charges are filed or dismissed. Law enforcement will provide initial evidence to the prosecutor, who will decide whether sufficient cause to move forward with criminal case. Prosecutor will gather information from all relevant sources (victim's psychological, interview, and medical reports), determine charges to forward file against the offender, and represent the state in prosecuting the offender in a trial. The prosecuting attorney will communicate with the offender's (defendant in this case) attorney. A plea bargain may result (pleading guilty to lesser charges, resulting in lesser consequences for crime).  

Dependency case attorney. The safety and welfare of the child is the interest of the dependency case attorney, who represents the child. If the abuse was perpetrated by a family member, and if the child was removed from the home and placed in court-approved alternative housing (approved family member, foster care, other facility), an attorney may be assigned in the dependency case. This is separate from the criminal court. In this case, DHS will file a petition with the court to request an order that the child remain in protective custody. DHS will submit an Action Plan to the court regarding services that will be provided to victim and parents and stipulations required in order for the child to be returned home. If the offender was the father of child and if the child has been assessed as non-supportive, stipulations for mothers may include  evaluation and mental health assessment, individual counselinggroup therapy for nonoffending parents, and/or parenting classes, If the mother, does not comply with these required services, the case may move forward to parent termination. 

Criminal attorney to represent offender. If the offender is charged with sexual abuse, he will obtain an attorney to defend him in court. This attorney's goal is to negotiate with the prosecutor and get the charges reduced so that consequences are less severe or go to trial and obtain acquittal for the offender. The offender's attorney will seek to discredit the victim, State's witnesses, and all evidence.

Civil case attorney. Families will often obtain the services of an attorney specialized in child molestation and file a civil lawsuit against the offender and any organization that did not protect the child from abuse. Monetary compensation is sought for the damages resulting from the child's sexual abuse. If the case was dismissed by the prosecutor for lack of evidence, this recourse may provide the family the potential satisfaction of the offender's having consequences for his actions.

Divorce attorneys. If the sexual abuse was perpetrated by the father, the mother may also file for divorce during the course of the investigation and criminal trial. In such a case, the family law court will be involved. The mother will obtain a divorce attorney experienced in family law matters. The goal of the mother would be to obtain sole custody of the child with limitations on supervised parenting time with the offending parent (Safety Plan). If sufficient evidence was not obtained for the prosecutor to move forward with the case, the mother may request that a parent custody evaluation be ordered so that a professional recommendation for custody and parenting time can be provided to the court. 



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