Child Abuse/Neglect Services
There are times when the New Jersey Department of Children and Families must step in for the safety of a child. However, while this is necessary some of the time, other times the actions of DCPP (Department of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly DYFS, the Division of Youth and Family Services) can feel more retaliatory, even getting involved in custody disputes to give one person an advantage over the other. If this should happen to you, it is imperative that you contact an attorney from the Williams Law Group to ensure your rights are protected and to have the best chance of putting your family back together. Our attorneys will always fight for your rights and be your advocate against DCPP.
You may wonder why you need an attorney when DCPP contacts you. There are multiple reasons for this, primarily the fact that there is lots of red tape to navigate any time you deal with DCPP. If you do not have the necessary knowledge of how the agency operates, you could find yourself at a severe disadvantage. Having an attorney from the Williams Law Group who focuses on this field will ensure you are fully prepared to fight the charges against you. Our attorneys are knowledgeable of all DCPP procedures and will ensure you are never blindsided by the process, keeping you informed and up-to-date every step of the way. The Williams Law Group has a proven history of fighting DCPP cases and will do whatever it takes to ensure you have the greatest advantage in getting your child back home with you. LEARN MORE >
DCPP may receive an allegation of child abuse against you from a teacher, a doctor, the child’s other parent, a police officer, a neighbor, or virtually anyone else. Within 24 hours, the agency will begin an investigation into the allegations, unless there is an immediate risk to the child. The child may or may not be removed from the home at this point, depending on the allegations and the circumstances. A DCPP caseworker will investigate the allegations, making a formal finding, usually within 60 days of the initial referral. The agency will either find the charges substantiated, unfounded, established or not established, with the worst being substantiated, and unfounded meaning the case is closed. Established and not established findings are a bit murkier. LEARN MORE >
DCPP court cases can be quite intimidating for the parent charged with child abuse or neglect, and even for lawyers who do not have significant experience facing DCPP in court. DCPP is a huge government bureaucracy and rarely works in the same manner as the American legal system. Unfortunately, the lowest level of proof is required for the state to “prove” a child has been abused or neglected, therefore having an experienced, knowledgeable attorney from the Williams Law Group by your side can truly make the difference between losing your child and a more favorable outcome. LEARN MORE >
Agency Appeal/Appeals in Appellate
As a defendant in litigation filed by DCPP, you are entitled to file an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, if you disagree with the trial court’s decision. If the findings in your case are “substantiated,” you must request an appeal within 20 days of receipt of DCPP’s findings. If the findings are “established,” or “not established,” you have 45 days from the date of the administrative finding to file a Notice of Appeal. An appeal for a Judgment of Guardianship Terminating Parental Rights must be requested within 21 days. There is a specific format necessary for DCPP appeals—having a highly qualified attorney by your side will ensure the format is adhered to and that no crucial deadlines are missed. LEARN MORE >
Rights of Relatives
DCPP has a statutory obligation to contact the relatives of a child in its custody, initiating a thorough search for any relative who could be willing and able to care for the child. If a specific relative is unwilling or unable to care for the child, DCPP must notify that relative in writing if there is a change in circumstances upon which the determination was made. DCPP has a responsibility to reunify the biological family, however, when the child’s needs cannot be met in his or her home, or by relatives, the agency may place the child in foster care.
Kinship Legal Guardianship
Kinship legal guardianship can have major consequences for families in the state of New Jersey; when a caregiver is appointed as kinship legal guardian, he or she has effectively assumed responsibility for the child until that child turns 18. The caregiver must notify the parents of the child that he or she is applying for kinship legal guardianship, and the parents may oppose the action. While kinship legal guardianship is most often sought by relatives of the child, the program is also available to close family friends or those who have a legal relationship with a child in their care. LEARN MORE >
Termination of Parental Rights
In the state of New Jersey, a parent’s rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. If a parent gives up parental rights voluntarily, they are likely consenting to have the child adopted. There are five grounds to involuntarily terminate parental rights: when a parent or caregiver has been convicted of child abuse, abandonment, neglect or cruelty to the child, when it appears it would be in the best interests of the child to terminate parental rights, when the parent has abandoned the child, when DCPP has made reasonable efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental bonds, yet those efforts have failed, or when the parent has been convicted of murder, aggravated manslaughter, manslaughter of another child of the parent, assault or attempted assault of a child, or any serious act which resulted in death or injury of a child. LEARN MORE >
Termination of Parental Rights Defense
It is crucial that you have an attorney from the Williams Law Group by your side to defend your parental rights against termination. Our attorneys will challenge unwarranted removals of a child from the home, will ensure DCPP is making reasonable efforts to reunify and will fight for your parenting time. At each hearing, we will clearly demonstrate your progress in your quest to be reunited with your child, and we will conduct our own, thorough investigation into the allegations made against you.
Termination of Parental Rights Mediation
Mediation may be used as a method of resolving conflict in a DCPP case, and occasionally the court will refer a complex case to mediation prior to resorting to trial. Mediation can halt a termination of parental rights by allowing the parents and DCPP to resolve current conflicts and make decisions that are in the best interests of the child—without taking the drastic step of termination of parental rights. The mediator—a neural third-party, will work with the parents, DCPP, the respective attorneys, and any other parties who have an interest in the well-being of the child. All parties are given a chance to speak, and the mediator will facilitate the mediation, providing guidance and information when needed.
Foster Parent Rights
In the state of New Jersey, foster parents rarely have the right to intervene in DCPP proceedings, however, the foster parent relationship is a huge part of a termination of parental rights case. A bonding assessment may be done, with an expert appointed by the court to study the bonds between the child and the foster parents, as well as the bonds between the child and the birth parents. If the expert determines the child is more bonded to the foster parents, then he or she may determine that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Bonding assessments are usually only done when the child has been with the foster parent for a significant length of time.
Surrender of Custody
Although parental rights are inherent, those rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily, through a court order. When a parent surrenders his or her parental rights, the parent is agreeing to end the legal relationship with their child. There may or may not still be an obligation to financially support the child, however, there will be no other rights or obligations regarding the child. If you voluntarily surrender your parental rights, DCPP will provide you with counseling to ensure you are aware of all the consequences of surrendering custody of your child and that the surrender of custody is in the best interests of your child. Both the court and DCPP must approve your surrender of custody for it to be legal, and there are limited circumstances under which a voluntary surrender of custody will be accepted. If you feel you are unable to care for your child, you may have other options besides surrendering custody of the child. It is extremely important that you speak with an experienced attorney from the Williams Law Group prior to making such a drastic decision. LEARN MORE >
Surrender of Custody-Identified
When a parent makes an identified surrender of custody, the parent is naming a specific person as the adoptive parent for the child. If an identified surrender is made but the adoption is not completed, the identified surrender will be vacated, and the parent may be asked to make a general surrender.
Surrender of Custody-General
When a parent makes a general surrender of a child, DCPP can then find an adoptive home for the child. Whether you make an identified or general surrender of your child, your actions will have no bearing on the parental rights of the child’s other parent.
The Child Placement Bill of Rights Act governs sibling visitation during the period when a child is placed outside his or her biological home, even after termination of parental rights. Under the Act, DCPP is obligated to “nurture sibling relationships,” despite a termination, and even when a sibling has not initiated the process. If such visitation is opposed by DCPP, the agency has the burden of showing such visitation would not be in the best interests of the child. Whether a foster family wants the sibling visitation should be irrelevant to the issue. LEARN MORE >
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Issues
When a person in another state finds out a relative of his or hers has been placed in foster care and wants to bring the child to their home to take care of, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Issues (ICPC) comes into play. The ICPC is an agreement between two states, which offers provisions for children in care who are moved from one state to the next. The purpose of the ICPC is to protect all those involved in the placement process, ensuring the child is placed in a secure environment and will have full legal, medical and financial protections. To initiate the ICPC process, the DCPP caseworker must be contacted, and you will be named as a potential caregiver. From that point, a Child Welfare representative in your own state will begin the licensing process, including a home study.
As you can see, there are many complexities associated with dealing with a DCPP investigation or trial. If you are facing allegations of child abuse or neglect, it is important that you speak to an attorney from the Williams Law Group as quickly as possible to ensure your rights are protected. We will fight aggressively for your right to keep your child in your home or be reunited with your child. We understand that in some cases, allegations may be false, or there may be extenuating circumstances in your case. Whatever your situation, we want to ensure your voice is heard. Contact the Williams Law Group today at (908) 810-1083.