New Jersey’s child welfare agency can remove a child from the home without a court order but must immediately seek court approval within two days of the removal, which takes place at a Dodd hearing, also known as Title 9 proceedings.
The scope of the Dodd hearing is relatively limited. The judge will determine whether continued removal of the child is necessary (i.e. whether the child can safely go home), and, if it is necessary, where the child should go. These two issues are critical because they will determine the trajectory of your child welfare case. Many parents find it difficult to quickly get their child back after that point, so the Dodd hearing is the last foothold for some parents.
It is recommended all parents consult with attorneys before the Dodd hearing if they have time. Not only can an attorney prepare you for your hearing, but he or she can also perform two critical functions during the hearing.
First, an attorney can argue that continued removal is unnecessary by challenging the evidence the agency produced and arguing on your behalf. Second, an attorney can help ensure your child is placed with trusted friends or family members if the judge decides in the agency’s favor. In the absence of legal representation, some parents aren’t able to feel listened to or that they are being taken seriously.
Although you have very little time in which to prepare for the hearing—you will typically have less than two days—speaking with an attorney even briefly is well worth your time. The agency’s goal is to make sure the child is placed in a safe home. Once that occurs (e.g. the child is placed with a resource family), the pressure is off, and the pace of the case can slow. For the parent, however, the pressure to reunite is just now beginning.
It’s far better to prevail at a Dodd hearing and then work with the DCP&P on a safety plan to keep them at bay—so to speak—than it is to have to work to get your child back after the judge decides in the agency’s favor. An attorney can give you a better chance of prevailing at your hearing and can help you ensure your child is placed with someone you trust if you don’t.
If you are looking for aggressive legal defense in New Jersey, the Williams Law Group, LLC can help you. Our skilled child abuse and neglect defense attorneys will defend your rights every step of the way. 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.