DCP&P Attorney in Somerset County, New Jersey

As a parent, it's natural to constantly worry about your child's well-being. You make every effort to shield them from harm, so when a former spouse or family member accuses you of child abuse or neglect, it can be a jarring experience. If you are facing such accusations, it is crucial to act swiftly to minimize the impact on your child and family.

Dealing with the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) may be necessary, but it is not something you should handle alone. The stakes are too high. Seeking legal guidance from the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm is highly recommended. You can contact our team today at 888-535-3686 or provide your information through our contact form so we can better understand your situation.

New Jersey's Division of Child Protection & Permanency

The primary objective of the DCP&P in New Jersey is to protect children from abuse and neglect. To carry out this task, the division will take immediate action to remove a child from the presence or custody of anyone suspected of abuse. Sometimes, a child may be taken out of their home.

However, the efforts of the DCP&P extend beyond just removal. They also work to build legal cases against those responsible for abuse or neglect. The division can involve taking legal action, such as obtaining restraining orders or pursuing criminal charges, which may lead to the perpetrator being removed from the household or even incarcerated. While the primary focus of the DCP&P is to protect the child, they may also use criminal charges if necessary.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Somerset County

In Somerset County, the DCP&P office is located in Somerville. If you become involved in a child abuse or neglect case, you'll have to be in contact with this office.

There are two types of cases that Somerset County DCP&P investigates:

  1. Child abuse: When a child under the age of 18 is harmed physically, sexually, or emotionally by a parent, guardian, or caregiver.
  2. Child neglect: When a child's basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and safe home, are not being met by their parents, guardians, or caregivers.

In New Jersey, everyone is a "mandated reporter" of child abuse or neglect. Any person who suspects child abuse must report it to DCP&P. If you believe your child is being abused or neglected by a former spouse or family member, you are legally required to report it. Dealing with child abuse or neglect situations can be complex and emotionally overwhelming. You should seek advice from the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm.

When DCP&P Has the Authority to Launch an Investigation

When a report of possible abuse or neglect is received by DCP&P, it will be thoroughly examined, and a case worker will be dispatched to the child's residence to conduct an investigation. If you are being accused of abuse or neglect, the case worker will request to speak with you and members of your household, including your children. If you refuse to cooperate, the caseworker has the authority to seek assistance from a judge or the police.

Following the initial visit, the case worker may also speak to other adults involved in the child's life, such as teachers, doctors, relatives, and neighbors. DCP&P is required to conclude its investigation within 60 days and will provide a written report of its findings.

If the investigation substantiates abuse or neglect, meaning there is evidence that your child has been harmed or put at risk, you may be required to go through legal proceedings in court. If you were the one who reported the abuse or neglect, your identity can remain confidential throughout the process, and the accused party won't be informed of your involvement.

The DCP&P Court Process in Somerset County

Should DCP&P choose to initiate a court case following their investigation, the process will involve the following steps:

  1. Order to Show Cause: This order is the DCP&P's evidence to support their accusation, which must include sworn statements from witnesses.

  2. Preliminary Hearing: The court determines if there is sufficient cause to proceed with the case based on the Order to Show Cause.

  3. Fact-Finding Hearing: DCP&P presents the evidence they have gathered to support their claim of child abuse or neglect. The accused individual also has the opportunity to present evidence in their defense.

  4. Dispositional Hearing: If the court finds evidence of abuse or neglect, a dispositional hearing is held. The court decides whether the child should be returned home and if the accused person requires counseling or treatment.

  5. Review Hearings: If the accused person has been ordered to undergo counseling or treatment, they must attend periodic review hearings to monitor their progress.

  6. Permanency Hearing: In cases where the investigation remains open for more than a year, a permanency hearing is held. The court presents a plan for a permanent resolution, and the accused individual, if they are the parent or guardian of the child, can propose an alternative plan.

Not all DCP&P investigations result in a court case. In some instances, DCP&P makes an administrative decision, which can be appealed by the parent or guardian.

How the Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help

Facing a DCP&P investigation can be an overwhelming and distressing experience. It's not advisable to handle it alone. At the Lento Law Firm, we understand the difficulties you are facing and offer both legal guidance and emotional support. Our Family Law Team can handle DCP&P matters, and we're ready to assist families in Somerset County. We will guide you through the process and provide advice on how to effectively interact with DCP&P officials.

If you are dealing with a situation involving child abuse or neglect, reach out to the Lento Law Firm's Family Law Team. We'll work with you to safeguard your children and defend your rights as a parent. To schedule a consultation, please call 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form with your information.

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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