All parents have a right to an attorney when facing child welfare proceedings, including Title 9 and Title 30 proceedings and child abuse/neglect defense. To exercise this right, parents may obtain private legal counsel or ask to be appointed a public defender if they are unable to pay for a private attorney.
It is important to clarify that this is an individual right not shared between the parents. Each parent to a child is considered a separate party to the case. Though you might feel allied in your defense, you are both accountable for your individual actions in a court of law. Even if you share parenting responsibilities, you both must obtain your own legal counsel.
Parents who are a couple might rather have a single attorney represent them either to save money or time when preparing for their defense. This is especially true if they are on the same page regarding the allegations and both have the same wishes for the child. But in any client-attorney relationship, it is a conflict of interest for an attorney to represent more than one party to a case. Not only is this against the legal ethics code, but it can also pose problems under certain circumstances.
As the case develops, the role of each parent can change. Allegations can quickly become focused on one parent as evidence arises, and conflict between the parents is not uncommon in such a situation. Similarly, the parents’ wishes for the child could deviate during the case, as allegations shift and options for reunification diminish. Attorneys act as advocates and should be behind you 100% from the beginning. Given the unique relationship between client and attorney, each parent needs an attorney who can act as his or her advocate against allegations.
If you are involved in a case with the DCP&P—New Jersey’s child welfare agency—you should speak with an attorney. An attorney can help you in a few ways. He or she can explain the purpose of the proceedings and help you navigate your case and also advocate on your behalf at the hearings. Your child’s other parent should speak with an attorney as well. Although you might both have your child’s best wishes in mind, it’s essential that you have someone who has your—and only your—best wishes in mind.
Are you facing child abuse or neglect allegations? If you are, Williams Law Group, LLC can inform you of your rights and what you can do to defend yourself. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.