DCP&P Attorney in Burlington County, New Jersey

You worry about your kids all the time. It's sort of your job. And you take it seriously. So, any time a former spouse or a family member levels a charge of child abuse or neglect against you, it hurts. Don't let the shock and stress of the situation blind you to what you need to do, though. You must respond to charges immediately. A fast response can do a lot to help minimize the impact such an accusation has on you and your child.

Even false allegations can sometimes garner an investigation from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). That agency wants to be sure children are being protected. That doesn't mean, though, that you should suffer the loss of your reputation or the loss of your child over something you didn't do.

The Lento Law Firm can help. We're on your side and willing to do whatever it takes to keep you and your family together. A DCP&P case can be stressful, but you don't have to go through it alone. Call the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686, and find out what we can do for you. Or use our contact form to tell us more about your case.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency

No one wants to hear from the DCP&P, but the fact is that the agency serves an important function in New Jersey. Ultimately, it's the DCP&P's job to ensure children in the state are safe from abuse and neglect. Any time a parent is suspected of harming a child, DCP&P immediately steps in. Few jobs are more necessary or more difficult.

You should know, though, that DCP&P wields enormous power in New Jersey. It has the power to remove children from their homes. It's responsible for building legal cases against parents and other caregivers. Beyond taking children away from their parents, the agency can take legal action that removes parents from their homes, results in restraining orders, and sometimes even lands parents in jail.

In other words, while the DCP&P is certainly on the side of New Jersey children, if the agency is investigating you, it is not on your side. You need someone who can represent your interests and defend your reputation regardless of the charges. The Lento Law Firm works with the DCP&P to resolve issues in everyone's best interests. We can be fierce, though, when it comes to protecting your rights.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Burlington County

There are two DCP&P offices in Burlington County – one in Burlington East and one in Burlington West. If you live in Burlington County, you'll deal with investigators from one of these offices.

The Burlington County DCP&P pursues two types of cases:

  • Child Abuse: This can involve accusations of physical, sexual, or emotional harm to a person under the age of 18, either by a parent, a guardian, or someone else responsible for a child's care.
  • Child Neglect: As the name implies, this type of case involves the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide a child with basic necessities, including clothing, shelter, proper nutrition, or medical care.

There are all kinds of reasons why someone might accuse you of abuse or neglect. Keep in mind, though, that you can be charged not just for committing these offenses yourself but also for failing to report someone else who has committed them. All persons in New Jersey have a legal obligation to report child abuse and neglect to DCP&P, and failure to do so constitutes a disorderly persons offense.

Whatever the specifics of the accusations against you, the Lento Law Firm will work with you to develop a defense strategy and stand beside you throughout the case.

The DCP&P Investigative Process in Burlington County

Most DCP&P investigations begin with a complaint. Such complaints can come from anyone in the community. It could be that a spouse or relative makes the complaint; it could be that the complaint originates with a teacher, a health care worker, or law enforcement.

Once DCP&P receives a complaint, an investigation is opened. The agency assigns a case worker to visit the home and gather more information. In most cases, they'll need to speak to you, your children, and any other household members. In addition, the caseworker will likely talk with other adults in the child's life—neighbors, teachers, and relatives—to get a full picture of the situation.

You can refuse to let a caseworker into your home. However, they will usually respond by getting the courts and the police involved. You cannot refuse if they have a warrant or court order.

A DCP&P investigation in Burlington County can last no more than sixty days. Further, you have the right to written notification of the outcome of any investigation. If investigators find no substantiating evidence, they normally will drop the case. If, however, they uncover signs of abuse or neglect, they will likely take additional action, including the initiation of formal court proceedings.

The Burlington County DCP&P Court Process

A DCP&P investigation can be stressful. If the Court should get involved in the case, the situation can also get complicated.

The process usually happens in steps.

1. Order to Show Cause: First, DCP&P will produce an Order to Show Cause, which sets in motion a preliminary hearing. This Order should offer proof of the accusation, including evidence like affidavits from witnesses.

2. Preliminary Hearing: The preliminary hearing gives the Court an opportunity to examine evidence for the Order to Show Cause and to decide whether or not the case should move forward.

3. Fact-Finding Hearing: Following the preliminary hearing, the Court may order a fact-finding hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to allow DCP&P the opportunity to present any evidence of abuse or neglect gathered during the investigation. Likewise, you have the right to present evidence refuting the charges.

4. Dispositional Hearing: If the Court decides abuse or neglect occurred, it orders a dispositional hearing. The purpose here is to determine whether or not a child should be allowed to return home and whether or not you should be required to attend counseling or other treatment.

5. Review Hearings: If the Court orders you to seek treatment, it will hold review hearings to check on the progress of that treatment.

6. Permanency Hearing: Should the situation remain unresolved after a year, the Court will order a permanency hearing. During these proceedings, the Court will offer a plan for a permanent solution, while you, as the parent, may offer an alternative plan.

Keep in mind that not every accusation leads to hearings. At any point, DCP&P or a judge can decide to dismiss your case. It is also true that DCP&P can make an administrative decision as to what should happen with your child, in which case you must appeal that decision to the Court.

The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help

We said it in the beginning, but it bears repeating: we're on your side, and you can count on us to do everything in our power to protect your rights and get you the best possible resolution to your case. Your Lento Law Firm attorney can be at your home when DCP&P investigators visit. We can help you answer investigator questions. We can file motions on your behalf. And, of course, we can represent you during any hearings.

More than anything else, though, we want to help you navigate this stressful experience. We know what you're going through. We've worked with hundreds of clients on all types of domestic issues. We're here to offer legal guidance, but we're also here to offer empathy and support.

We work with clients across New Jersey, including in Burlington County. If you're involved in an allegation of child abuse or neglect, we can help. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Family Law Team today at 888-535-3686 or use our contact form to provide your information 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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