The First Hearing
Title 9 hearings commence when the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) files a complaint to place a child. The DCP&P may file a complaint if the child is in imminent danger and had to be removed from the home (called a Dodd removal) or if the child was harmed or at risk of harm and the parents do not cooperate with the investigation and refuse to sign a safety plan. If the DCP&P believes your child cannot live at home safely, with or without a safety plan, it will initiate Title 9 proceedings.
What Is Decided?
At a Title 9 hearing, the judge will decide if the removal is necessary, if the child should be returned home, and if the services recommended by the DCP&P—such as substance abuse treatment—should be ordered. But even if the judge finds placement unnecessary, the DCP&P could still be involved in your life. For this reason, the Title 9 hearing is a crucial point in child abuse cases for which you should be prepared to defend your rights.
Keeping It Out of Court
It’s important to understand the DCP&P may not have to file a complaint if you agree to keep the alleged abuser away from your child or if you sign a safety plan that addresses the safety issues in question. If you do not want your case to go to court—and most parents don’t—contact an attorney to discuss your options. An attorney—if contacted immediately—might be able to work with the DCP&P before the complaint is filed. If the complaint was filed and you must attend a hearing, you should still discuss your rights with an attorney.
You have a right to legal counsel when facing Title 9 proceedings. Always exercise this right. If you cannot afford a private attorney, you can ask to be appointed one, and you will have to pay a flat fee. At the hearing, you and the DCP&P will have the chance to speak and present evidence. At this point in your case, the DCP&P may or may not have enough evidence to substantiate the allegation, so it’s best to be cautious about what you say, which is another good reason to have an attorney represent you. What you should say would depend on the allegations you face, so speak with an attorney to ensure you do not jeopardize your case.
Are you involved in child welfare litigation? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you defend yourself against the DCP&P. Located in Short Hills, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.