When dealing with the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), previously called the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), it can be stressful to prepare for the hearings that may determine your family’s fate.
Following an investigation, the hearings will take place in a courtroom. A judge will oversee the process, make decisions about your case, and issue orders. Failure to comply with a judge’s order can lead to your arrest or a default judgment against you. Because of the significant legal implications of these proceedings, it is recommended that you consult a knowledgeable attorney who focuses on DCPP/DYFS hearings in Montclair.
In New Jersey, parents must go through multiple levels of DCPP proceedings before the court issues a final decision. These hearings provide an opportunity for the state to build its case regarding potential child abuse or neglect. They also give parents and guardians a chance to defend themselves against the state’s claims and share their side of the story.
The preliminary hearing is a short court proceeding that occurs when DCPP files a case for potential abuse. During this hearing, the judge decides whether the case against the parents or guardians is strong enough to proceed. This is also when the judge will determine whether the child should be placed with a guardian selected by DCPP or continue a placement if the child has already been removed from the home.
During a fact-finding hearing, DCPP presents its case and the parents or guardians may defend against their claims. The court evaluates both arguments and all the evidence presented, after which the judge issues a written or oral decision on the case. If the judge rules in favor of the parents or guardians, the matter may close, and the children may return to the home, depending on the circumstances. If the judge finds that abuse or neglect occurred, another hearing will follow.
Dispositional hearings often occur immediately following a fact-finding hearing that ends in DCPP’s favor. During a dispositional hearing, the judge may order a parent to undergo drug rehab, psychological counseling, or other services to create a safer home. Both sides also may present more evidence before the judge determines whether the child may be reunified with their family.
Review hearings allow the court to evaluate the progress that the parents or guardians have made and to examine the child’s welfare in their current situation. Montclair parents or guardians may have multiple review hearings throughout the DCPP/DYFS hearings process. When a judge is satisfied that the parent or guardian has made appropriate progress, they often order family reunification and, eventually, case dismissal.
If a child lives in foster care or another placement away from their parents or guardians for at least a year, the next part of the proceedings will be a permanency hearing. At this stage, the DCPP makes recommendations for a permanent home for the child, which the judge considers in their decision.
At a permanency hearing, DCPP has the burden of demonstrating that it made all reasonable efforts to reunite the family by offering various supports, unless a court ruled that it was not required to provide services. A permanency hearing can have one of the following outcomes:
A knowledgeable attorney in the community could advise parents and guardians on achieving their desired outcome in a DCPP permanency hearing. For cases that end in an unfavorable ruling, a lawyer could also help pursue appeals.
The outcomes of DCPP/DYFS hearings in Montclair can permanently alter the lives of parents and their children. There are many legal complexities involved in preserving parental rights and protecting children’s best interests, so it is critical to have dedicated legal representation throughout the process.
An experienced lawyer could guide you through every stage of the hearings and help you present a strong case to keep your family together. Call our legal team today to schedule a consultation about your circumstances.