New Jersey's Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) has the state's authority and responsibility to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect to protect the involved child. But a DCP&P investigation and case to protect an abused or neglected child can have far-reaching impacts on the person DCP&P suspects or determines committed abuse or neglect. After investigating abuse and neglect allegations, DCP&P may find the allegations (1) substantiated, (2) established but not substantiated, (3) not established, or (4) unfounded. Each level of DCP&P determination can carry different potential consequences. If you face a DCP&P child abuse or neglect investigation, you need to know those potential consequences so that you are ready to devote the necessary time, attention, and resources to defending and defeating the charges. Avoid as many of the potentially crippling consequences of a DCP&P proceeding as you can. Retain New Jersey DCP&P defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for premier advice and representation on your DCP&P matter.
Immediate Temporary Removal
A first consequence of a DCP&P proceeding is that DCP&P investigators may immediately remove your child on their first visit to your home. Depending on the allegations and what DCP&P investigators observe at your home, they may bring police officers with them to the home or call them to the home to secure your child's immediate removal. DCP&P may immediately remove a child, though, only when believing that the child is in imminent danger of harm. And if DCP&P does remove your child, DCP&P officials must promptly commence a civil court proceeding to confirm the removal by court order within two business days. You may and should appear for the court hearing after you retain a skilled and experienced DCP&P defense attorney. When DCP&P removes your child, they may place the child with another family member or in temporary foster care. If DCP&P investigators appear at your home to remove your child, offer to adjust your household to satisfy the investigators that your child faces no abuse or neglect risk. They may decide not to remove your child. Then promptly retain attorney Lento to represent you in any further investigation or proceeding.
When DCP&P removes a child temporarily, it must promptly file a Title 9 proceeding in the civil court to obtain an order confirming the removal. You will ordinarily have an opportunity within two business days to appear in court with your retained defense attorney to fight DCP&P's temporary removal so that your child can return to your home and you do not face removal orders. Your retained attorney may help you show that abuse and neglect did not occur or that you have remedied or can remedy the conditions giving DCP&P its concerns. While this civil proceeding gives you and your retained attorney a critical opportunity to advocate against child abuse and neglect allegations and preserve your child's custody, a civil proceeding also carries its own consequences and obligations. If you wish to preserve your child's custody, you must generally appear in court, preferably with a skilled and experienced DCP&P defense attorney. Retain premier DCP&P defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you meet the challenges of a civil court proceeding.
Supervised Parenting Time
If DCP&P investigators do remove your child temporarily or for a longer period under court order, you will very likely face significant restrictions in having any contact with your child. You may not get to see your child at all, depending on the allegations, evidence, and findings. But in many cases, as the investigation continues under a temporary removal order, you may regain the right to see your child under the supervision of another person. The supervisor may be the family member or foster care provider caring for your child during the temporary placement. Your continued contact with your child is obviously very important to both you and the child. The civil court entering the initial temporary removal order may grant supervised parenting time in that first order or in subsequent orders the court renews every thirty days, as procedural rules require for DCP&P civil cases. Your DCP&P defense attorney may help you negotiate and advocate for supervised parenting time to ensure that you and your child have the benefit of continued contact.
Counseling and Classes
DCP&P may recommend to the court that it order you to take counseling and classes to avoid removal or to regain custody of your child. Alternatively, you may seek to convince DCP&P and the court that you can overcome abuse and neglect issues by voluntarily taking counseling and classes. Taking counseling for depression, anger management, substance abuse, and similar issues affecting your ability to care for your child may avert your child's temporary or long-term removal. Classes in child and family care, nutrition, and relationships can contribute to the same goal. Court orders may also require you to pay for classes and counseling.
Removal for Placement
If DCP&P investigators substantiate abuse and neglect allegations against you, they may seek to turn a temporary placement into a long-term or permanent placement. Removal for placement is a common consequence of a DCP&P substantiated determination. The removal may be to a family member capable, qualified, and committed to caring for your child long term, or the removal may be through a foster care agency to a family the state has qualified and pays to receive placements. DCP&P typically seeks long-term or permanent removal through the civil court case filed to obtain and renew removal orders. If DCP&P obtains long-term or permanent removal, it may seek orders forcing you to pay the foster care agency supervising the placement of your child. Retain DCP&P defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Defense Team to fight abuse and neglect allegations, resist long-term or permanent removal, and negotiate and advocate for your best outcome.
Civil Contempt Penalties
If DCP&P files a civil court proceeding against you to obtain temporary, renewed, or long-term removal orders, you must comply with those orders. Those orders may restrict you from contacting your child, going certain places or doing certain things with or for your child, interfering with guardians or others caring for your child, and other actions. Those orders may also require you to take certain affirmative steps, like paying for placement expenses, delivering items necessary for your child's care, like medical supplies or equipment, and continuing medical insurance. If you fail to comply with these orders by doing something the court prohibits or failing to do something the court requires, the court could hold you in contempt, depending on your financial and other circumstances. Contempt proceedings can lead to arrest and possible jail time. The court must generally initiate and notify you of a contempt proceeding before holding you in contempt. Comply with all court orders to the best of your ability. Retain attorney Lento for skilled representation if you are unable to comply with an order and need court relief or if you face contempt proceedings.
Child Abuse Registry
If DCP&P investigators reach a substantiated determination on the abuse and neglect allegations against you, DCP&P will enter your information in New Jersey's Child Abuse Registry. While the public cannot directly access the Child Abuse Registry to discover your child abuse and neglect record, New Jersey law authorizes many officials to do so. Police, prosecutors, courts, agencies, and other officials responsible for child welfare can request a Child Abuse Registry Information (CARI) check, which would reveal your record. Your record could prevent you from having any opportunity to serve in daycare, foster care, guardianship, adoption, and similar roles. Although the Child Abuse Registry is a New Jersey state administrative record, agencies nationwide can make CARI checks if meeting the requirements for in-state child welfare checks. Child Abuse Registry records are permanent unless removed on appeal. Child Abuse Registry can affect a host of other personal, social, financial, and vocational interests and rights. Your record can be enormously important to you. Retain attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm Defense Team to fight abuse and neglect allegations, appeal any substantiated determination, and seek to remove any Child Abuse Registry information.
DCP&P only enters your information in the statewide Child Abuse Registry if it substantiates the child abuse and neglect allegations. But DCP&P will retain its investigation files not only for substantiated determinations but also for established and even not-established determinations. DCP&P generally retains substantiated and established determination files permanently and not-established for three years. DCP&P only routinely disposes of files in cases reaching unfounded determinations. DCP&P's retention of your investigation files in substantiated, established, and not-established determinations mean that DCP&P investigators, police, and prosecutors can access those old files and their information in the event of new child and abuse allegations. Retain attorney Lento to help you prove as unfounded any child abuse and neglect allegations so that you don't have old DCP&P files and information hanging over your head.
Termination of Parental Rights
More serious DCP&P cases can proceed through two stages. The initial stage is a Title 9 filing to determine whether abuse and neglect have occurred and provide for temporary protections until the parent shows that the parent has cured any issue. But when DCP&P determines the abuse and neglect to be severe and that the parent cannot or will not cure the issue, DCP&P can move the proceeding forward to a second stage of Title 30 guardianship filing. In a guardianship case, the family court may issue a temporary guardianship order, giving the accused parent another opportunity to meet court and DCP&P terms for restoring parental rights. Guardianship cases can proceed to final orders terminating parental rights. In those cases, the court and DCP&P may place your child for adoption. If, though, the temporary guardian was a qualified and willing family member, DCP&P may permit, and the court may approve a kinship legal guardianship. Kinship legal guardianship effectively grants your family member custody and parental rights over your child, as if adopted but may facilitate your continuing relationship with your child. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm Defense Team are available to help you fight and best navigate a DCP&P Title 30 guardianship complaint for terminating your parental rights.
Criminal Abuse and Neglect Charges
DCP&P proceedings are in civil, not criminal, court. While a DCP&P substantiated determination that you committed child abuse and neglect can lead to any or all of the above consequences, a DCP&P substantiated determination is not a criminal conviction. You won't go to jail on a DCP&P substantiated determination unless you violate court orders and face a contempt proceeding. But a DCP&P substantiated determination and the investigation results and evidence leading to that determination may influence prosecutors to file criminal child abuse and neglect charges under New Jersey Code Section 9:6-3 in criminal court against you. Depending on the circumstances, prosecutors could charge you with anything from a fourth to a first-degree crime. Each degree carries different penalties. A fourth-degree child abuse and neglect conviction can carry a sentence of up to eighteen months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A third-degree crime can carry three to five years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. A second-degree crime can carry five to ten years imprisonment and a $150,000 fine. A first-degree crime can carry ten to twenty years of imprisonment and a $200,000 fine. Retain attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm Defense Team to fight any criminal charge relating to your DCP&P matter.
Premier DCP&P Defense Services
Premier DCP&P defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Defense Team are available across New Jersey to help you avoid the above potential consequences of a DCP&P investigation and proceeding. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now for the representation you need for your best outcome.