Today's families are more blended and non-traditional than ever before. It is not uncommon for parents to divorce, remarry, split up, and date new people many times over. Often, this means that adults who are not a child's parents may still be spending significant amounts of time with them.
Unfortunately, conflicts between parents, former spouses, and relationship partners can be messy and complicated. When a parent's new partner is accused of abusing their children, what can happen and what can be done?
What Is Child Abuse in New Jersey?
When people hear the term “child abuse,” they tend to think of the worst offenses imaginable. However, while many child abuse offenses are horrific, many allegations of abuse stem from much less serious behavior. For example, New Jersey law considers excessive or habitual use of profane or obscene language in front of a child to be abusive.
In New Jersey, state statutes say that child abuse is when a person abuses, abandons, is cruel to, or neglects a child in their care. (N.J.S.A. 9:6-3). A person can be accused of child abuse even if they are not the child's parent—if a parent's boyfriend or girlfriend has care, custody, or control of the child during an incident, they can be charged with child abuse. Child abuse is different than domestic violence, but domestic violence charges are possible if the allegation is between a parent's new partner and an adult child still living in the home.
Consequences of Child Abuse Allegations
The consequences of being investigated for child abuse can be serious, even if you are innocent. If you have been accused of child abuse, you can expect an investigation from the Child Protection and Permanency agency (CP&P), part of the Department of Children and Families. After receiving a report of child abuse, a CP&P investigator will evaluate the complaint, determine if a home visit is necessary, and begin the investigation. This will likely consist of interviews with you, the child, and the child's parent separately with the investigator.
The CP&P investigator can recommend several courses of action. They could close the case if they find the allegations are unsubstantiated, but they can also recommend services like parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, counseling, and other in-home services. If the investigator finds that the child is actively in danger, the child could be removed and put into foster care, and the person who allegedly abused the child could be arrested and charged with crimes.
In addition to criminal consequences, the parent of the child could also have their visitation restricted or revoked by the family court. In some cases, a boyfriend or girlfriend accused of abuse or neglect could be prohibited from being near the children at all, which can be especially cumbersome if you live with the children's parents. Finally, allegations of child abuse may also cause irreparable harm to your personal and professional reputation that can last for years after the allegations are resolved.
Defending Against Child Abuse Allegations
Fighting back against allegations of child abuse or neglect can be an uphill battle. It can be difficult to defend yourself against serious charges without decades of knowledge and expertise on your side. At the Lento Law Firm, we know that family disciplinary decisions and parenting styles should be private. Experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team understand how situations at home can quickly get out of hand and will help you build the best defense possible to clear your name. Schedule an appointment today by calling 888.535.3868.