Government as Guardian: New Jersey’s Parens Patriae Obligation

Government as Guardian: New Jersey’s Parens Patriae ObligationProtecting the Safety of All Children

Parents have a right to live with and take care of their children without intervention from the government. The sanctity of the family is protected by the Constitution because the family unit is the bedrock of our nation. As with any constitutional right, however, there are exceptional circumstances in which your rights can be violated, including whenever a child is in danger. When a child is in imminent risk of harm, the government can step in to protect the interests of the child.

The authority that gives the State of New Jersey the right to violate parents’ rights and act, in part, as a guardian of children is referred to as parens patriae.

Parens patriae translates to “parent of the country” and is a legal doctrine with far-reaching effects. The State has an interest in protecting those who cannot protect themselves, such as children and incapacitated adults. In an effort to protect children, the state sometimes must violate the parents’ right to familial integrity by removing the child from the home or taking other similar actions without the parents’ consent. The State can do this with a court order but gives the child welfare agency (Division of Child Protection and Permanency) special authority to intervene (i.e. remove a child from the home) if it is clear the child is at imminent risk of serious harm. This intervention is considered temporary until it can be established in a court of law whether or not the child was abused or neglected. You have a right to due process meaning you will have a chance to combat the allegations against you before any decisions regarding the permanent placement of your child are made.

Whenever someone or something tries to get in between you and your child, you should seek legal guidance. The State of New Jersey has the authority to put your child in foster placement if it’s in his or her best interests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fight back. A New Jersey child welfare and child custody attorney can explain your rights and how the state could violate them so you can proceed with confidence. An attorney who has handled child welfare cases can help you navigate the process step by step, so you can have the best chance of being reunited with your child.

Do you have questions about your rights as a parent? Williams Law Group, LLC can inform you of your rights, so you can exercise them. Located in Union, 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 connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

Let us know how we can help
Contact Our New Jersey Family Lawyers Today