While authorities investigate the family accused of perpetrating the balloon boy hoax to promote a reality show, questions are being raised about whether or not the couple's three kids should be taken away.

Lee Christian, the lawyer hired by Mayumi Heene to represent her, said neither he nor his client has been contacted by authorities about whether the couple's children might be taken from them.

However, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has said child protective services was contacted to investigate the children's well-being.

The sheriff's office said its findings will be forwarded to prosecutors next week to decide if Richard and Mayumi Heene should be charged with falsely reporting that their 6-year-old child had drifted away in a large home-built helium balloon to drum up publicity for a reality TV show.

SLIDESHOW: View photos from the alleged hoax

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor told CBS News Monday that, "all they have to have is evidence of neglect or abuse."

"And boy, I think they've got plenty of that here," she said.

The Heenes are amateur storm chasers who apparently wanted to star in a reality show that focused on a range of absurd experiments, such as attracting UFOs with a weather balloon, launching a model rocket into space and conducting an electromagnetic analysis of a terminally ill patient's spirit before death.

Alderden said he is seeking charges against the Heenes that include conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.

The most serious charges are felonies and carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison. Alderden said authorities would be seeking restitution for the costs, though he did not have an estimate. Alderden said the children were still with the parents and that child protective services had been contacted to investigate their well-being.

It's also possible that Heene could face federal charges because he called the Federal Aviation Administration to report his son missing in the balloon. Those charges could include lying to the federal government, a count similar to the one that sent Martha Stewart to prison in her stock-fraud case.

Once it's decided if charges will be filed, is likely when the kids' fate will be determined.

"That's when Child Protective Services is likely to get involved whether they're charged or not and we're hearing that they will, in fact, be charged," Murphy told CBS News.

The balloon spectacle was not the first time Richard Heene has run afoul of the law.

He was arrested in April 1997 and charged with three misdemeanors — vandalism, vehicle tampering and disturbing the peace, according to court documents. He pleaded no contest to vandalism and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years probation and ordered to pay $100 restitution, according to Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office.

The other two charges were dropped. Mateljan said he did not know who the victim was, and no details on the case were available.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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