DCP&P Attorney in Atlantic County, New Jersey

As a parent, you probably worry about your child constantly. You do as much as you can to protect them from harm, so if you get accused by a former spouse or family member of child abuse and neglect, it can feel shocking. If you've been falsely accused of abusing or neglecting your child, you need to act quickly. You must try to limit the impact this accusation will have on your child and your family.

You may have to deal with the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), but you shouldn't try to handle it alone—there's too much at stake. You should seek legal guidance from the Family Law attorneys at the Lento Law Firm. Call our team today at 888-535-3686 or send us your information via our contact form so we can learn more about your case.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency

The DCP&P in New Jersey has an extremely important objective: to safeguard children in the state from abuse and neglect. DCP&P steps in to immediately remove children from the presence or custody of anyone suspected of abuse. Such actions against a parent or caregiver can swiftly result in children being taken out of their homes.

However, it's important to understand that DCP&P's efforts to protect children go beyond just removal. Part of their protective measures includes building legal cases against those responsible for abuse or neglect. The approach taken by the DCP&P isn't solely focused on taking the child away. It can also involve legal actions against the accused, potentially leading to their removal from the household through restraining orders and, in some cases, their incarceration following criminal charges. While the primary aim of the DCPP is not to pursue criminal penalties but to ensure the safety and protection of children, the DCP&P can sometimes use criminal charges if needed.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Atlantic County

DCP&P has two local offices in Atlantic County, one in Egg Harbor Township and one in Mays Landing. If you reside in Atlantic County and you're involved in a DCP&P investigation, you will deal with one of these two offices.

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

  • Child abuse: Allegations of physical, sexual, or emotional harm to a child under 18, caused by a parent, guardian, or someone entrusted with the child's care.
  • Child neglect: Any failure by parents, guardians, or caregivers to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, medical care, or a safe living environment.

Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect has a legal responsibility to report it to DCP&P. Not doing so is a disorderly persons offense. If you suspect your child is being abused or neglected by a former spouse or another member of your family, you have a legal obligation to file a report. You should also contact the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm to take the best course of action possible following your report.

How Do DCP&P Investigations Start in Atlantic County?

Once DCP&P receives a report of possible abuse or neglect, it looks into the matter and sends a case worker to the child's home to investigate. If you are accused of abuse or neglect, the case worker will want to speak with you and members of your household, including your children.

If you refuse to let the caseworker into your home, they have the right to seek help from a judge or the police. After the initial visit is over, the caseworker may speak to other adults in the child's life, such as teachers, doctors, relatives, or neighbors.

DCP&P investigations must end within 60 days. The division will send you a letter with the investigation findings. If abuse or neglect is substantiated, meaning they find evidence that your child was harmed or placed at risk of harm, you may have to go through formal proceedings in court.

If you were the one who reported the abuse or neglect, you can remain anonymous throughout the process. The accused person won't learn that you reported it.

Atlantic County DCP&P Court Process

If DCP&P decides to initiate a court proceeding after their investigation, the process will go through the following steps:

  1. Order to Show Cause: The Order to Show Cause is the DCP&P's proof for the accusation, which must include affidavits from witnesses.
  2. Preliminary Hearing: The court decides if there is sufficient reason for the case to continue, based on the Order to Show Cause.
  3. Fact-Finding Hearing: DCP&P can introduce the evidence it gathered to support its accusation of child abuse or neglect. The accused person can also bring evidence to defend their position.

  4. Dispositional Hearing: If the court determines that there was abuse or neglect, there's a dispositional hearing. The court decides if the child should return home and if the accused person requires counseling or treatment.
  5. Review Hearings: If the accused has been ordered to seek counseling or treatment, they must attend review hearings periodically to monitor progress.
  6. Permanency Hearing: Permanency hearings take place when a case stays open for more than one year. The court presents a plan for a permanent solution. The accused person, if they're a parent or guardian of the child, can present an alternative plan.

Keep in mind that not every DCP&P investigation leads to a court proceeding. In many cases, DCP&P makes an administrative decision, which the parent or guardian can appeal.

The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help

When you're involved in a DCP&P investigation, it can be an incredibly stressful and emotional experience. You shouldn't try to handle it alone. At the Lento Law Firm, we understand that you're going through a tumultuous time—you need support and empathy as well as legal guidance. Our team can provide what you need. We help families throughout Atlantic County with DCP&P matters, guiding you through the process and advising you on how best to deal with DCP&P officers.

If you're dealing with a situation involving child abuse or neglect, you should contact the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm. We can help you protect your children and stand up for your rights as a parent. Call 888-535-3686 or send us your information in our contact form so we can schedule a consultation.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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