Aggravating Factors in Child Welfare Investigations

Aggravating Factors in Child Welfare InvestigationsSerious Factors

When caseworkers are investigating a report of child abuse or neglect, they look for certain factors that could indicate the child was harmed or put at risk of harm. Some factors weigh in more heavily than others and can significantly influence the outcome of the investigation. These are called aggravating factors and can increase the seriousness of the allegations. Common aggravating factors include:

  • Parents failure to comply with the conditions of a court order (a protective order or family law order), safety plan, or case plan previously established to keep the child safe.
  • The child is of tender age (i.e., very young), has delayed developmental status, or is otherwise disabled or vulnerable.
  • The child suffered a lasting physical, psychological, or emotional impact.
  • The parent made an attempt to inflict significant or lasting physical, psychological, or emotional harm to the child.
  • Evidence suggests the abuse or neglect was repetitive or part of a pattern (this is weighed more heavily than if the abuse or neglect was isolated).
  • The child must be separated from the parent to be safe (there is no way for the child to be safe with the parent), or
  • The abuse or neglect happened in an institution (such as a boarding school or rehabilitation facility).

In light of one of these factors, the findings of your investigation are unlikely to be unfounded. An aggravating factor can justify an established or substantiated finding, and these can have serious consequences.

Weighing the Factors

Consult with an experienced New Jersey child abuse defense attorney if you are facing allegations and want to discuss aggravating factors. There are also mitigating factors that can affect the outcome of a case. Mitigating factors could potentially decrease the seriousness of the allegations or provide some justification for the actions or behaviors of the parent. While considered by the court, mitigating factors do not necessarily mean the allegations were false or that CPS will make an unfounded finding.

Every case is different, so it’s best to speak to an attorney about the specific facts and circumstances of your case so you can receive personalized legal advice on the most important factors in your case and how to best proceed. The aggravating and mitigating factors in your case will indeed play a role, but you should work with an attorney to more thoroughly understand the important elements in your case and how they can affect the outcome.

Have you become involved with New Jersey’s CPS agency? If so, Williams Law Group can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and tell you what you can do to get your child back. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

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