DCP&P Attorney in Cumberland County, New Jersey

Whether you suspect child abuse or neglect — or find yourself on the wrong side of a related claim — it can be a tumultuous time for you and your family. What's more, navigating the complex investigations conducted by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) can be extremely daunting.

Given that DCP&P takes swift action when these high-stakes allegations are made, it's important to seek legal guidance from an experienced DCP&P attorney right away. At the Lento Law Firm, we have been fighting for families, safeguarding children from appalling mistreatment for nearly 20 years. We are leaders in helping families ensure the rights of all are protected.

If you or a loved one needs lawful representation in the face of a claim of child abuse or neglect in Cumberland County, call our reliable Family Law Team today at 888-535-3686, or fill out a contact form so we can learn more about your case.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency

In the state of New Jersey, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency is a lifeline for families across the state. Backed by a mission to “assist all New Jersey residents to be safe, healthy, and connected,” DCP&P takes actionable steps to investigate reports of maltreatment, provide educational services to stop future abuse, remove children from dangerous homes, make safe placements in foster care or with relatives, and ensure the well-being of children in the welfare system.

Additionally, DCP&P also protects vulnerable children by building legal cases against anyone accused of child abuse or neglect. These cases often result in issuing restraining orders, removing the accused from the home, or securing an arrest or guilty charge in the New Jersey family court system. DCP&P's comprehensive services offer families peace of mind during an extremely difficult and chaotic time.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Cumberland County

If you're involved in a DCP&P investigation and live in Cumberland County, you will engage with one of two local offices, Cumberland East or Cumberland West.

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

  • Child abuse: Any nonaccidental act that results in physical, sexual, or emotional harm to a child under 18, at the hands of a parent, guardian, or caregiver
  • Child neglect: Any failure or omission to act by a parent or other person responsible for the child's care that presents an imminent risk of serious harm

When someone believes or suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, they have a legal duty to file a report. The Child Abuse Hotline (State Central Registry) is available 24/7 at 1-877-652-2873 (NJ ABUSE) to receive calls that are then transferred to local offices. As part of the screening process, some of the following information 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 believe or suspect that your child is experiencing abuse or neglect by a caregiver, it's also important to secure legal counsel. Contact the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team to better understand your rights and how to proceed.

How Do DCP&P Investigations Start in Cumberland County?

As mandated by state law (Title 9 and Title 30), DCP&P is required to look into any and all allegations of child abuse and neglect. Within 24 hours of a filed report, a case worker or police officer is dispatched to the child's home to initiate the official investigation. This includes inspecting the child's living conditions and conducting interviews with household members, including both adults and children.

This initial assessment is the first step in deciding if a court proceeding is necessary. Often, administrative decisions are made in its place. No matter the findings, investigative protocols in New Jersey compel them to be completed within the first 60 days of the report.

There are four key categories that findings fall into, including:

  1. Substantiated: After considering aggravating and mitigating factors, a preponderance of evidence substantiates claims of abuse or neglect
  2. Established: While a preponderance of evidence substantiates claims of abuse or neglect, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors.
  3. Not Established: There is an absence of evidence that the child has been neglected or harmed, but evidence does indicate a risk of imminent harm.
  4. Unfounded: DCP&P did not find any evidence of child abuse or neglect.

If claims of child abuse or neglect are found to be substantiated, formal court proceedings may follow. An established DCP&P law firm like the Lento Law Firm can help you navigate the complexities of taking the next steps after a decision.

Cumberland County DCP&P Court Process

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

  1. Order to Show Cause Hearing: The Order to Show Cause is the first hearing in which DCP&P has the right to take emergency action and provide proof for the accusation.
  2. Preliminary Hearing: The second hearing takes place approximately three weeks after the Order to Show Cause and the agency shares its decision to proceed or not.
  3. Fact-Finding Hearing: During this third hearing, the DCP&P will introduce evidentiary support for the allegations of child abuse or neglect. Both sides can call witnesses, present evidence, and question or cross-examine relevant parties.
  4. Dispositional Hearing: If the court determines that a child was abused or neglected, this dispositional hearing is held to design the next steps. They may include removal of the child from the home, mandated parenting classes or substance abuse treatment, or other protective arrangements for the child.
  5. Review Hearings: If the accused is required to attend counseling or follow a treatment plan, review hearings are held periodically to help the court monitor progress.
  6. Permanency Hearing: Approximately one year after the report was filed, the court must determine a permanent solution for the safe placement of the abused child. If the accused is a parent or guardian of the child, they have the right to offer an alternative plan.

The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help

If you're involved in a child abuse or neglect case in New Jersey, you need the dependable representation of a DCP&P attorney. There's no time to waste in securing a trusted attorney who can answer all of your questions in a way that makes sense to you.

At the Lento Law Firm, our Family Law Team will represent your interests in court — and help you understand your rights and obligations throughout the end-to-end child abuse case.

We understand that dealing with the DCP&P can be both frightening and frustrating. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686, or reach out online, so we can help you and your family during this difficult time.

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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