Child Dependency Issues in New Jersey Family Law
When children are brought into the New Jersey legal system, it’s important that they are adequately represented and that their interests are paramount. Judges will often see to this by appointing a guardian ad litem to protect a child’s interests, and New Jersey law requires courts to consider the child’s best interests first and foremost whenever making any decision regarding child custody, child support, placement for foster care or adoption, or other child-related matters.
When it comes to matters involving child dependency, it is also imperative for parents to understand the situation and get professional advice and representation for themselves. Child dependency matters can be difficult, stressful and traumatic for children and parents alike. Often the best place for children is to be at home with their family where they will be loved and cared for, but it can be an uphill battle to convince the state that this is so. Learn more about child dependency laws below, and contact Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for help with divorce, child custody, or other matters involving children in New Jersey family courts.
What Is Dependency Law?
Juvenile dependency law comes into play whenever the county or state gets involved with the parental relationship. If children are removed from the home by the state as a result of allegations of abuse, neglect, abandonment, criminal activity, drug use, or other factors, then the family will end up dealing with child dependency law. A child dependency court can issue orders to:
- Take children away from the home
- Place children in foster care or with relatives
- Terminate parental rights
- Create new parental rights or restore parental rights
The Start of the Child Dependency Process
The child dependency process begins when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) is notified about alleged abuse or neglect. A response worker will be sent to your location to evaluate the home and make sure the child is in a safe environment. If the worker determines that the home is unsafe, the child can be removed from the home and made a dependent of the state.
Before the child is removed, you will go through a series of hearings. At these hearings, you will have the opportunity to admit or deny the allegations, respond to the abuse allegations, and argue against removal. If the court determines removal is appropriate, the judge will typically implement what is known as a reunification plan. The plan lays out the steps you must take to be reunified with your child, complete with periodic reviews of your compliance. The court will also establish visitation rights during the reunification process. Ultimately, the court will hold a permanency hearing to determine the permanent home of the child.
At all steps of the process, it is vital to have an experienced, professional family law attorney in your corner to make sure that the process is fair and even-handed and to ensure that your side of the case is properly heard.
Keeping your kids or getting them back
Having an experienced and passionate child dependency lawyer in your corner may be the difference between keeping your kids and having them taken away. If you are under investigation by the DCF or CP&P, you have the right to defend yourself. If your kids have been taken away, you have the right to fight to get them back. Having an overworked, overstressed, and inattentive court-appointed lawyer in your corner is not the way to ensure that you get to raise your kids in your own family.
Call a Dedicated New Jersey Family Law Attorney for Seasoned Advice and Representation
If you’re considering divorce, or if you’re dealing with issues involving parental rights, child custody, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the compassionate and trial-ready Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.