DCP&P Attorney in Ocean County, New Jersey

Child abuse and neglect involve any mistreatment and disregard towards a child under 18 years old — at the hands of a parent, caregiver, or any custodian (such as a religious figure, coach, or teacher). These acts can pose a risk of harm, create a threatening environment for the child, or lead to physical, emotional, or psychological harm.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, or if you are involved in a related claim, it can be a challenging time for you and your family. Dealing with the thorough investigations carried out by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) can be highly overwhelming.

If you or someone you care about requires legal representation related to an allegation of child abuse or neglect in Ocean County, contact our dependable team today at 888-535-3686, or fill out a contact form so we can help.

Defining Child Abuse

If mental illness or substance abuse, such as drug and alcohol addiction, impede a parent's ability to provide proper care, supervision, and protection, allegations of abuse or neglect may arise. Abuse and neglect are considered any action or lack thereof that leads to the death, severe harm, injury, or sexual exploitation of a child.

In the state of New Jersey, child abuse encompasses physical, mental, or sexual harm inflicted upon an individual under the age of 18, including situations that place a child at risk of serious harm — even if no actual injury occurs.

The most prevalent forms of child abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves any action that results in an injury, whether minor or severe. For it to be considered abuse, the injury must not be accidental. While the state examines repeated patterns of behavior, a single incident — such as slapping a child — can still be deemed as abuse.
  • Emotional Abuse: Parents have a responsibility to safeguard a child's psychological well-being. When identifying emotional abuse in New Jersey, the state assesses whether the actions pose a threat or have already caused delays in the child's mental, emotional, or psychological development. Emotional abuse typically manifests as a pattern of emotionally-harmful interactions rather than a solitary event.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any form of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor constitutes abuse. The state of New Jersey is deeply committed to protecting children from sexual exploitation, and any claim of child sexual abuse is likely to prompt a criminal investigation or charges.

Neglect is defined in New Jersey as a parent's failure to adequately care for or supervise a child despite possessing the necessary resources. Similar to emotional abuse, proving neglect can be challenging.

In New Jersey, all residents are mandated reporters, meaning they must report any witnessed or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency

The DCP&P serves as a reliable support system for families throughout the state. With a commitment to promoting safety, health, and connections for all residents, this agency diligently investigates allegations of abuse, offers educational resources to prevent further harm, relocates children from harmful environments, arranges secure foster care or family placements, and prioritizes the welfare of children within the social services network.

DCP&P swiftly takes action to protect vulnerable children by initiating legal proceedings against individuals facing allegations of child abuse or neglect. These proceedings frequently lead to restraining orders, the removal of the accused from their residence, or an arrest or guilty charge within the New Jersey family court system.

While DCP&P's all-encompassing services provide families with a sense of security during an exceedingly tumultuous time, we are here to support the accused. Considering that DCP&P acts promptly upon receiving these serious accusations, it's crucial to seek legal advice from a skilled DCP&P lawyer right away.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Ocean County

If you're involved in a DCP&P investigation and reside in Ocean County, you will work with one of two local offices, Ocean North or Ocean South:

The Ocean County DCP&P investigates two types of cases:

  • Child abuse: Any intentional action causing physical, sexual, or emotional harm to a child under 18 perpetrated by a parent, guardian, or caregiver.
  • Child neglect: Any neglectful behavior or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that places a child under 18 at immediate risk of serious harm.

As mentioned, if an individual believes or suspects that a child has experienced abuse or neglect, they are obligated by law to submit a report. The Child Abuse Hotline (State Central Registry) operates around the clock and can be reached at 1-877-652-2873 (NJ ABUSE) to handle incoming calls.

During the screening process, the following details may be collected:

  • Names of the child and parent(s) or guardian(s)
  • Age of the child
  • Address of the child
  • Name of the accused caregiver and the relationship to the child
  • Location of the alleged child abuse or neglect
  • Details of the abuse or neglect

If you have any reason to believe that your child is being subjected to abuse or neglect by a caregiver, it's important to seek legal advice. Get in touch with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team to gain a comprehensive understanding of your rights and how to take the appropriate steps moving forward.

How Do DCP&P Investigations Start in Ocean County?

DCP&P is obligated by state law (Title 9 and Title 30) to investigate all claims of child abuse and neglect. A case worker or police officer is sent to the child's residence within one day of the report to begin the official inquiry, which involves examining the child's living conditions and interviewing household members — both adults and children.

This preliminary evaluation is essential in determining the need for legal action, with administrative resolutions regularly being reached instead. Regardless of the outcome, New Jersey's investigative procedures mandate completion within 60 days of the initial report.

There are four key categories in which findings are classified, including:

  1. Substantiated: Following an assessment of aggravating and mitigating factors, a majority of evidence supports allegations of abuse or neglect.
  2. Established: Despite a majority of evidence supporting allegations of abuse or neglect, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors.
  3. Not Established: There is a lack of evidence indicating that the child has suffered neglect or harm, but evidence does suggest a risk of imminent harm.
  4. Unfounded: DCP&P did not discover any evidence of child abuse or neglect.

If claims of child abuse or neglect are substantiated, court proceedings may follow. An established DCP&P law firmlike ours can help you take the next steps with confidence.

Ocean County DCP&P Court Process

DCP&P court proceedings in Ocean County typically include the following hearings:

  1. Order to Show Cause Hearing: The Show Cause Hearing is the initial hearing where DCP&P can take immediate action and provide evidence for the allegations.
  2. Preliminary Hearing: The second hearing occurs around three weeks after the Show Cause Hearing, and the agency announces its decision to proceed or not.
  3. Fact-Finding Hearing: In this third hearing, DCP&P presents evidence to support the allegations of child abuse or neglect. Both parties can call witnesses, present evidence, and question relevant individuals.
  4. Dispositional Hearing: If the court finds that a child was abused or neglected, this hearing is held to determine the next steps — which may involve removing the child from the home, requiring parenting classes or substance abuse treatment, or implementing other protective measures.
  5. Review Hearings: If the accused must attend counseling or follow a treatment plan, periodic review hearings are conducted to assist the court in monitoring their progress.
  6. Permanency Hearing: Around one year after the initial report, the court must decide on a permanent solution for the safe placement of the abused child. If the accused is a parent or guardian, they have the opportunity to propose an alternative plan.

Unfounded Allegations of Mistreatment

While it's uncommon, there are instances where one parent falsely accuses the other of mistreating or neglecting their children. This could be done to gain an advantage in a custody battle or to restrict the other parent's access to their children. False accusations can harm both the children and the accused by damaging their relationship with their parent or guardian.

If you have been accused of mistreating or neglecting your child, it is crucial to act promptly. The first step is to retain a DCP&P lawyer who can assist you throughout the legal process — and advocate on your behalf.

Protect Yourself in the Face of an Allegation

Additionally, make sure to gather as much evidence as possible to demonstrate that your children have not been subjected to mistreatment or neglect by you. Eyewitness accounts and other tangible proof are essential in refuting allegations of mistreatment. However, be aware that any statements you make could be used against you.

Failing to address and disprove the accusations in a timely manner can have severe repercussions. You may risk losing custody, visitation rights, and even your parental rights if the allegations are serious. It may be necessary to explore other legal options, such as pursuing a defamation lawsuit or criminal charges. It's important to take the appropriate steps to safeguard your reputation — and your bond with your child.

Your Right to Appeal

It's your legal right to appeal the decision made by the Division, even if it's unfavorable — or if you do not agree with it. You must initiate the appeal process by requesting an administrative hearing within 20 days of receiving the Division's final report. While the appeals process may be challenging, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is available to assist you in preparing a robust appeal and navigating through the process, ensuring that all necessary paperwork is submitted correctly.

How the Division Can Permanently Terminate Your Parental Rights

The Division holds the authority to terminate your parental rights, but typically, they can only do so for a maximum period of 12 months. If the underlying issue is not resolved within this timeframe, the Division may pursue permanent revocation of your parental rights. However, in cases involving severe or particularly harmful abuse or neglect, the Division may opt for permanent termination of your parental rights.

Nevertheless, the Division cannot unilaterally terminate these rights. They must present a petition to an Atlantic County Judge and demonstrate one or more of the following criteria:

  • Restoration of your parental rights would jeopardize your child's emotional, psychological, or physical well-being.
  • You have failed to address the conditions that led to the suspension of your parental rights, and you lack the ability or willingness to rectify them.
  • Your child would endure long-term abuse, neglect, or ongoing harm if they were removed from their current environment.
  • The Division has consistently and actively attempted to assist you in resolving the abusive situation, but these efforts have proven unsuccessful.
  • Granting you parental rights again would cause more harm than good to your child.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help

In the event of a child abuse or neglect case in New Jersey, it's necessary to have a reliable Ocean County DCP&P attorney by your side. Acting promptly in hiring legal representation can help you secure clear answers to all your inquiries.

We acknowledge the challenges and anxieties that come with dealing with the DCP&P. Our team is dedicated to advocating for your rights in court and ensuring that you comprehend your legal standing throughout the entire child abuse case process.

Reach out to the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 or filling out a contact form so we can help you and your family during this difficult time.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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