Defending Against DCPP: Accused of Abuse/Neglect in Custody Dispute
Child custody disputes are difficult at the best of times. They can easily become heated, and allegations of neglect or abuse are not uncommon. If your spouse or co-parent accuses you of abuse or neglect, New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS)) may become involved. DCPP involvement is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. However, just because DCPP has commenced litigation or otherwise become involved in your case does not mean you are bound to lose your custody rights. Read on to learn about defending against the DCPP in New Jersey custody matters, and if you are dealing with the DCPP or other child custody matters, call a New Jersey parental rights lawyer for zealous legal representation and advice.
How Does the DCPP Get Involved With Custody Disputes?
A DCPP investigation can start in several different ways. Typically, they will get a phone call to their hotline alleging abuse or neglect. The allegations can be provided anonymously, and the caller need not provide proof to start the investigation. The DCPP can start an investigation, conduct interviews with the parents, children, and other parties, and make recommendations to a judge. The DCPP can conduct an investigation without actually commencing litigation in court to pursue the removal of the child.
DCPP litigation can be commenced by the agency by filing a verified complaint. The agency will be represented by the Attorney General’s office, and they will seek to appoint a lawyer to represent the child. Litigation may be commenced either before or after the child has already been removed, but in order to remove the child from the home before obtaining a court order, the DCPP must show that the child faces an “imminent danger to the child’s life, safety, or health.” They can obtain a court order for temporary removal prior to a preliminary hearing, so long as the accused parent/caretaker is aware of DCPP’s intention to apply for an order, the child appears to be subjected to abuse or neglect such that removal is necessary, and there is not sufficient time to hold a preliminary hearing.
If the DCPP removes a child from the home, they have to file a complaint within two days. If they merely advise that a custodial parent keep the child away from an allegedly abusive non-custodial parent, they have more time to bring their case. If a child has been removed without a court order, the parent can file an application for the immediate return of the child. The court must hold a hearing within three court days and must return the child to the parent unless returning the child would put the child’s health or safety in danger.
Defending Against DCPP Action
At all stages of the DCPP investigation, litigation, or other action, the accused party has the right to a lawyer. Your attorney can represent you at the preliminary hearing, during the DCPP’s investigation, and otherwise throughout the process.
If the DCPP is pursuing its own litigation, the case will proceed to a fact-finding hearing, which operates much like a mini-trial. The DCPP will provide evidence to prove that the accused party committed abuse or neglect, and the attorney for the accused can provide their own evidence and witnesses as well as cross-examine the DCPP’s witnesses. The court will hold further hearings to make decisions regarding where the child should be housed during the pendency of the matter and, ultimately, whether temporary or permanent removal is appropriate.
If you have had your child removed from the home, or if you are facing an investigation by the DCPP, it’s important to get an attorney on your side as soon as possible. Your parental rights lawyer can protect your right to be with your child throughout the process and work to ensure that you retain custodial rights at the end of the matter.
Call a Zealous New Jersey Child Custody and Parental Rights Attorney Today
If you’re dealing with child custody matters or facing issues involving paternity, parental rights, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact the experienced and trial-ready Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.