Child Abuse and Criminal Charges
Despite what many parents facing child abuse allegations may think, the DCPP (New Jersey’s child welfare agency) does not have the power to file or “press” criminal charges against parents. While the DCPP is a state agency, it operates independently of the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, there are circumstances under which the DCPP (formerly the DYFS) must involve New Jersey law enforcement in cases. This typically happens in more serious cases where certain factors are present.
Who Files Charges?
Generally speaking, DCPP is required to notify the county prosecutor’s office if it receives a report of sexual abuse, serious bodily injury or death of a child. An arrest may or may not follow. The county prosecutor is the decision-making authority in these cases and will decide whether or not to file charges officially. Typically, the official charge would be Endangering Welfare of Children, which applies to both abuse and neglect cases. These are grave criminal charges to face and can affect your life in many ways. Endangering Welfare of Children is a felony offense in New Jersey and can result in a lengthy prison sentence.
Child Maltreatment vs. Crime
Allegations of Endangering Welfare of Children are not the same as allegations of child abuse or neglect. Most child welfare cases do not result in criminal charges, as many do not involve sexual abuse, serious bodily injury, or death. In addition, the burden of proof in a criminal court is higher than the burden of proof for child welfare cases. The DCPP does not view parents who allegedly mistreat their children as criminals. The family law division of the court, as opposed to the criminal court, handles child welfare cases. The DCPP largely wants to work with parents to keep children safe, not put parents behind bars, which transfers more children to the foster care system. But if you are facing a DCPP investigation, it can feel like you are being treated as guilty from the start. Working with an attorney can help give you peace of mind during this tumultuous time in your life.
If you are facing a child welfare investigation or are concerned about potential criminal charges, you should consult with an experienced New Jersey child abuse defense attorney immediately. Whether you are facing criminal charges or just a DCPP investigation, a child welfare attorney can help you navigate the often-overwhelming process of a child abuse investigation.
Are you facing child abuse allegations? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can help you ensure your rights and your child’s best interests are protected. 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 you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.