Knowing When to Answer: Responding to Child Welfare Complaints

Knowing When to Answer: Responding to Child Welfare ComplaintsThe Opportunity to Answer

Within two days of removing a child from the home, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) must file a Complaint along with an Order to Show Cause. Filing the Complaint commences the child welfare litigation process, involving the court. The Complaint is a document the DCP&P files with the court that contains facts of the case and the action or relief the Division seeks from the court (e.g. authority to remove the child from the home).

Once the DCP&P files a Complaint and serves it on the parent under investigation, the parent has the right to submit a formal Answer to the complaint, which is not required. Because filing an Answer is optional, parents may wonder when it is a good idea to file and when it is not. Many parents choose not to submit an Answer at this point because they don’t know how. Doing so simply because of lack of understanding is typically a mistake. Rather, a parent should consult with an experienced attorney before deciding whether or not to file an Answer.

The parent has the chance to deny the claims made by the DCP&P and express the needs of the child in the Answer. The purpose of the Answer is for the parent to disagree with the DCP&P’s decision to remove the child from the home and to express the needs of the child during the litigation process (i.e. the child should be returned home, or the parent should have access to the child).

Not every parent should file an answer, especially without the help of an attorney. An Answer will typically contain responses to the allegations the DCP&P made along with the reasoning behind the parent’s claim of non-culpability. The response can be an admission or a denial. The parent can also provide facts that disprove or discredit the Division’s claims and explain why the Division’s decision to remove the child from the home was negligent.

Speak with an experienced New Jersey child welfare defense attorney if your child has been taken from you and you’ve been served with a Complaint. How you respond at this point can significantly affect the outcome of your case, so you should seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney before you file an Answer. An attorney can help you determine whether it is appropriate to file an Answer and help you draft one if it is the best course of action for you.

Are you under investigation for child abuse or neglect? If so, the Williams Law Group, LLC is here to help. Our skilled attorneys can defend your rights and protect your best interests. 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 you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

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