Rules of Evidence in Child Welfare Litigation

Rules of Evidence in Child Welfare LitigationEvaluating the Evidence

Your rights as a parent are protected under law. And, despite what the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) might lead you to believe, your parental rights cannot be terminated without a full fact-finding hearing. During this hearing, both sides (the DCP&P and the parent) present evidence to support their respective claims. At the fact-finding hearing, the court reviews the evidence and makes a decision on whether the child was abused or neglected as defined by New Jersey law.

The fact-finding hearing and the evidence presented at it play a critical role in your case. Accordingly, there are many rules under which the evidence can be admitted to the case. Understanding these rules can help you better understand the proceedings and help you better defend yourself against the allegations.

The DCP&P must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the claims (i.e. allegations) are true. Only competent, material and relevant evidence can be used to do this. Types of evidence commonly admitted in child welfare proceedings including documents, photographs, formal reports and medical records. The court may also take oral testimony when the material evidence is in dispute or when it is insufficient to support, by a preponderance of the evidence, the DCP&P’s allegations. Typically, hearsay (statements made outside of court) cannot be admitted as evidence unless several conditions are met, and the witness is not available to provide testimony in the case.

You have a right to copies of the evidence the DCP&P submits. Likewise, you will have to provide copies of your evidence to the DCP&P and the court. Gathering and providing evidence is referred to as Discovery. During this stage of your case, you should be working closely with a child welfare attorney so you can gain access to the evidence being used against you and gather your evidence to support your claim.

While there are numerous rules of evidence, there are also some exclusions and exceptions to those rules. Thus, you should always speak with an experienced child welfare defense attorney well before the fact-finding hearing. An attorney can help you gain access to the evidence and challenge any questionable or unlawfully obtained evidence.

Again, make sure you consult with an experienced New Jersey child welfare defense attorney if you are facing allegations of child abuse or neglect. When so much is on the line, it is vital you understand how evidence can be used against you so you can plan a solid defense. A skilled attorney can help you do this and serve as your advocate and guide throughout the process.

Do you have questions about child welfare litigation? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can help ensure you understand the role evidence will play in your case and the rules that govern its use. 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 info@awilliamslawgroup.com, 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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