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The person who abused me reported me to the Department of Children and Families

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed June 2021

Sometimes abusive people call the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to get back at their victims for leaving or getting a 209A protective order against them. Sometimes they try to control their victims by threatening to call DCF.  Sometimes they do call DCF.

The person who abused you may call DCF and lie about you. They may say you are abusing or neglecting your child or that you are an alcoholic or drug addict. DCF will investigate to find out what is true and what is not. But DCF may also learn about the domestic violence when they investigate. DCF may decide your child is in danger from the domestic violence.

When DCF investigates, try to be as calm and organized as possible. Try to have a friend or advocate with you when the DCF worker comes to talk to you. Call DCF: 617-748-2000 and ask to speak to a "DCF Domestic Violence Specialist." Explain to the worker and the DCF Domestic Violence Specialist that the abusive person called DCF to get back at you for leaving him or getting a 209A protective order. Tell the worker and the Domestic Violence Specialist what you have done to protect your child from the domestic violence.

DCF needs to see that you are protecting your child from domestic violence. DCF might want you to go to counseling or get other services.

It is best to cooperate with DCF in these situations. DCF will also want to talk to the abusive person about your child, especially if they are the child's other parent. Let him be the one who does not cooperate when DCF wants to visit their home, make an appointment, or give them a service plan.

What can I do if the abusive person lied to the Department of Children and Families about me and then filed for custody in Probate and Family Court ?

Sometimes abusive people make false reports to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) so they can get custody.  When they go to the Probate and Family Court to get custody they make those reports all over again.

Tell the judge the abuser's report is not true. Tell the judge about the abuse. Explain that the report to DCF is a way to abuse you more. If DCF decided that you do not neglect or abuse your child, show the judge. If DCF did not support a 51A report against you, ask DCF for a copy of the records and show them to the judge. If DCF has not filed a Care and Protection case to try to take your child, tell the judge.

It is usually best to cooperate with DCF so your worker can see that the abusive person's report is not true. DCF can tell the judge that the report was false. DCF may also tell the judge that your child should stay with you because the other parent is so abusive. DCF does not like to be in the middle of custody battles. But the judge may ask for the worker's opinion about what is best for your child. The judge can also order DCF to bring records into court so the judge can review them to help make a custody decision.

If your abuser takes you to Probate and Family Court to get custody, it is very important to have a lawyer. Find your local legal services program.

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