DCP&P Attorney in Mercer County, New Jersey

When the safety and well-being of your child are always at the forefront of your mind, accusations of child abuse or neglect can be a devastating and unexpected blow. Accusations from a family member or former spouse require immediate action to safeguard your family's future and to minimize repercussions on your child's life.

If you are facing accusations of neglect or abuse and caseworkers from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) are knocking on your door, it's time to seek help. The Lento Law Firm Family Law attorneys can walk you through the process and protect your rights as a parent during this challenging time. Contact us today through our website or call us at 888-535-3686 to speak to a member of our team and get the help you need.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency

New Jersey's DCP&P is a child protection and child welfare agency tasked with protecting vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. DCP&P takes its responsibilities seriously and acts swiftly to remove children from dangerous situations when it receives reports of suspected abuse or neglect. Emergency removal of a child can happen out of the blue without prior notice given to parents and caregivers.

DCP&P's responsibilities are broad, and they do much more than simply remove children from unsafe situations. Removal is often the first visible step of a lengthy process that will play out in court, either with DCP&P crafting criminal charges or parents battling against court orders that took their children away. DCP&P usually prefers to work with families to address concerns before resorting to removal, but legal proceedings are always on the table if they have serious concerns.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Mercer County

DCP&P has two local Mercer County locations, Mercer North in Lawrenceville and Mercer South in Trenton. As a Mercer County resident, one of these offices will oversee your case if you are involved in a DCP&P investigation.

The DCP&P in Mercer County investigates all allegations of child maltreatment, falling into two categories:

  • Child neglect: The failure of parents and caretakers to provide food, clothing, supervision, shelter, or medical care such that the child's health and safety is at risk.
  • Child abuse: Physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual harm to minors perpetrated by parents and caretakers.

If anyone has concerns or suspicions about ongoing child abuse or neglect, it is their legal duty to alert New Jersey DCP&P. Failing to report such suspicions can result in charges of a disorderly persons offense. Make an official report to DCP&P today if you suspect a former spouse or family member is abusing or neglecting your child. Contact the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team for assistance filing a report and following up with the investigation.

How Do DCP&P Investigations Start in Mercer County?

There may be many people who have an interest in the well-being of your child and make a report of potential abuse or neglect. When the DCP&P receives a report, they conduct an initial investigation and send a case worker to the child's home to gauge the situation. They will want to speak with everyone in the household, including you and your children, to learn more about the accusations against you.

DCP&P has investigatory powers that allow them to interview other adults who may have knowledge of the child's situation, such as teachers, relatives, doctors, friends, and neighbors. If you refuse to cooperate and sit for interviews, they can also involve the legal system to obtain the necessary permission to enter your house.

DCP&P must conclude investigations within a two-month timeframe. If you are under investigation for abuse or neglect, this can seem like an eternity. At the end of their investigation, they will inform you of their findings, either ending the process or opening up the potential for formal court proceedings when they find evidence of harm.

DCP&P does not tell the accused party who made allegations against them. You can maintain anonymity throughout the process and get help for your children without putting yourself at further risk.

Mercer County DCP&P Court Process

DCP&P can initiate formal court proceedings when they find evidence of harm. If they take this route, the court process will follow these general steps:

  1. Order to Show Cause Hearings: This first hearing will be where DCP&P shows the court the evidence they have backing up their claims, usually requesting decisions regarding emergency actions like custody.
  2. Preliminary Hearing: The court will look at the Order to Show Cause and other evidence that DCP&P gathers in the interim, deciding if sufficient evidence exists to continue the case.
  3. Fact-Finding Trial: The DCP&P must prove you committed abuse or neglect. You and DCP&P can both bring evidence, call witnesses, and question the DCP&P worker involved in your case.
  4. Dispositional Hearing: The court decides what happens next when they believe abuse or neglect occurred. They set terms for reunification and may order evaluations, counseling, substance abuse treatment, or parenting classes for the accused.
  5. Compliance Reviews and Hearings: The court periodically reassesses whether the children can safely return to the custody of their parents or caregivers. They will also use this time to monitor the progress of counseling or treatment they ordered for the accused.
  6. Permanency Hearing: If children are still not back with their parents or caregivers after one year, the court must decide on a long-term plan for them. The court may recommend that children who cannot safely return home be placed with relatives or put up for adoption. Accused parents or caregivers also have the opportunity to present their own plans for long-term child placement.

DCP&P will never ignore allegations of child neglect or abuse, but that doesn't mean they will always push for the harshest criminal punishments possible. DCP&P can avoid the legal system and make its own administrative decisions, allowing parents and guardians to appeal.

The Lento Law Firm Family Law Team Helps Mercer County Families

DCP&P investigations are incredibly stressful for all parties. The Lento Law Firm can help your family work through the complicated process of DCP&P investigations and proceedings and provide support every step of the way. When your child's future is at risk, don't leave anything up to chance.

The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm is ready to take your call and start protecting your and your family's rights. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our confidential online form to 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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