The Burden of Proof in New Jersey CPS and Criminal Cases

The Burden of Proof in New Jersey CPS and Criminal CasesProviding Proof

You have to meet the burden of proof to prove a fact in a court of law. The burden of proof varies based on the type of case. For example, New Jersey CPS cases require a different burden of proof than New Jersey criminal cases involving child abuse. It’s important to understand the difference between them if you are facing allegations of child abuse or neglect.

The CPS Burden of Proof

In New Jersey CPS litigation, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. This means more than 50% of the evidence points to the allegation as being true. This is also the burden of proof in other civil cases.

New Jersey’s CPS agency is housed under the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). In family law cases, a deputy attorney general represents the DCP&P. The deputy attorney general must prove by a preponderance of the evidence a parent harmed or put a child at risk of harm to take certain actions, like terminating parental rights.

The Criminal Court Burden of Proof

In a New Jersey criminal case involving child abuse, the prosecuting attorney must prove each element in a crime beyond a reasonable doubt to find the defendant guilty. To meet this burden, the jurors must say with moral certainty the defendant is guilty of a crime. This is a higher burden of proof to meet than by a preponderance of the evidence.

Similarly, law enforcement must have probable cause to arrest someone or conduct a search. Probable cause is a reasonable basis that a crime has been committed. Conversely, the DCP&P does not need probable cause to investigate a child abuse report. The report alone is enough to prompt an investigation, even if the reporter cannot prove the allegation.

Many parents who face allegations of child abuse think it’s unfair they can be accused of something without probable cause. DCP&P cases are civil cases in the New Jersey family court. Some child abuse reports result in criminal charges, too, but many do not. In reality, caseworkers need only have a referral to initiate an investigation, be it by sending the parents a notice or showing up at their house. But caseworkers cannot force themselves into your home based on a child abuse report alone. They can, however, seek help from law enforcement who can then get the authority to force entry.

Understanding the Standards

Now that you understand the burdens of proof for DCP&P and criminal cases, you know what the opposing party must do to support the allegations. DCP&P does not need probable cause to investigate you. Nor does it need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you harmed your child to put him or her in foster placement. To learn more about your rights when facing allegations of child abuse, consult with an experienced New Jersey child abuse defense attorney who can advise you of your rights when dealing with the DCP&P and help you enforce them.

Are you facing allegations of child abuse? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you defend yourself against the DCP&P. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC 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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