ABSTRACT By the late 1900s, federal law insisted that investigations concerning child maltreatment focus on parental capabilities rather than identifying ideal circumstances for the child. However, definitions of maltreatment and subsequent corrective interventions continue to vary across states and are often value- and culturally biased. There is a need to identify a set of scientifically based rules for debating the issues surrounding maltreatment cases. Just as with cases regarding competency of the elderly in guardianship cases, parental capability should be established before legal interventions are implemented. For parental capability to have any legitimate meaning, it should be based on measurable and observable constructs and outcomes. The purpose of this article is to introduce standards for child maltreatment cases that correspond to legal precedents from similar competency disputes and that dispose of cases based on empirical evidence of functional, causal, and interaction components in a timely manner. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 (CAPTA; Public Law 93-247) introduced protective measures for children exposed to maltreatment and neglect. This act attempted to strike a balance between the parents' constitutional guarantee to rear their children without governmental control and the child's fundamental right to be cared for adequately and safely. Under the concept of parens patriae, CAPTA gave states the right to intervene in situations where a child is at risk for harm. However, the language of CAPTA was vague, and implementation at the state level often failed to meet the philosophical intent of the legislation.