When DCPP cases involve findings that point to substantiated or established abuse or neglect of a child, the state of New Jersey can move to terminate a parent’s rights to custody, contact, decision-making, and knowledge of their child. This termination of parental rights can occur as the culmination of court proceedings that result after the DCPP files a guardianship complaint.
There is, however, a serious burden of proof on the DCPP in such instances. In order to prevent against severing biological ties when such an extreme measure isn’t warranted and to give the parents every chance to prove they should maintain guardianship of their child, court cases involving the termination of parental rights must take the time to ensure the ultimate decision is the best course of action for the well-being of the child. There are four key elements which must be proven for the termination of parental rights to be granted:
To defend yourself against the loss of your parental rights in Short Hills, it takes a concerted effort to summarily disprove just one of these factors. Williams Law Group has a wealth of experience in family law and will use that to help you navigate the legal system in a stressful situation.
In a defense against termination of parental rights, counsel’s primary job is holding the DCPP accountable for what they must prove in court. Williams Law Group’s experience has taught us that DCPP, though the intent to preserve child welfare is noble and just, is subject to many flaws such as corner-cutting in their litigation or occasionally overextending their authority. We know what to look for in child welfare cases to separate those being properly prosecuted from those which are not founded on enough to justify measures like the termination of parental rights.
In the initial fact-finding hearing, defense is concerned with determining whether the DCPP’s claims of abuse and neglect have merit. If any line item in the complaint given to the court as justification for the termination of parental rights doesn’t meet the state’s definition of abuse or neglect, there is room for the defense to discredit the DCPP’s grounds for litigation. This may not end the court proceedings but it will provide a basis for arguments to be made against the court granting termination.
In Short Hills, outside of cases where DCPP is seeking to terminate parental rights on the basis of a parent’s criminal conviction involving cruelty, bodily harm, or abandonment of the child, defense stems from one of the following:
There are many ways the defense can build a case that accomplishes one of the above. If the prosecution is attempting to paint a larger picture of abuse and neglect out of a series of instances which wouldn’t necessarily demonstrate a lack of child welfare in isolation, counsel can put forth mitigating examples or point to DCPP’s intrusive presence as a cause of aggravated stress or discomfort. This can provide a means to show that DCPP is unduly influencing the household environment.
Often the pages of evidence submitted by the state during discovery can include a lot of hearsay alongside admissible elements. An experienced family law firm like Williams Law Group will examine these records for anything being presented as evidence which is not actually a first-hand finding of DCPP caseworkers. Beyond tossing out the hearsay, the defense will examine for omissions of either the parent’s efforts to improve the household environment or DCPP failing to provide them the means to do so. In tough cases such as these, it’s important that only the right evidence is admitted and that all the cards are on the table, for both sides in the case.
Defending against this movement by the DCPP is not easy, but there are opportunities to prove that a parent is trying to take better care of their child or children, as well as ways to show the state is not conducting a fair assessment of their parenting capabilities. It may feel like David versus Goliath, but Williams Law Group can provide the slingshot when there are grounds to defend against the termination of parental rights in Short Hills.