If a parent is encountering child abuse or neglect allegations, the prospect of going up against a lawyer from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) can be daunting. With the threat of having their child removed from their custody, many defendants are overwhelmed with the entire process. However, a parent facing such accusations has legal options available.
A child abuse or neglect allegation is extremely serious and can threaten the cohesion of a family. A family in this situation should have solid legal representation to help them through the process and assist them in presenting a strong case against the false allegations.
What Happens After a Complaint is Filed?
A charge against a parent for child abuse or neglect begins with a verified complaint that alleges that the parent put their child in danger. If the agency finds that the accusation is credible, a DCPP representative will bring the case to court. A judge will issue an order to show cause, which is a court order that notifies the parent of the basic details of the claim made against them. It also provides the date and time of the hearing that has been scheduled. The parent will be required to show up before the court to have the case evaluated.
On the date of the hearing, the parent will face the allegations that are argued by a prosecution lawyer. The judge will then hear from the defendant’s legal team as well as a law guardian, which is a lawyer who is appointed to represent the child in the legal proceedings.
The parent being charged in the case may seek private counsel. However, if the defendant cannot afford their own lawyer, one will be appointed for them. In order to secure this legal representation, a parent must prove their financial situation warrants it.
When Could I Lose Custody of My Child?
The proceedings may begin after the child has been removed from the home, an action that usually requires a court order unless the child is in imminent danger. The agency is supposed to avoid removing the child whenever possible with the understanding that such removal may be more disruptive than beneficial. The role of the DCPP is to support what is best for the child. Typically, keeping the family together or reunifying those that have been separated is a priority as long as the child is safe.
If there is reason to believe that the child is at risk, the court will prevent access to the child while the investigation proceeds. In this case, the parent may be able to file a motion for the court to reconsider, but these motions are not always successful.
In some cases, the parent being investigated may not have access to the child, but the other parent may be able to maintain physical custody by signing a case plan. A case plan indicates that the parent will keep the child away from the other parent under investigation.
What are Some Possible Defenses?
The court will want to see that a parent is not a threat to their child and that they are capable of providing them with sufficient care. Beyond that, there are common strategies that can be applied to fend off allegations of child abuse or neglect. While the specifics differ greatly from case to case, some of these general tactics include the following:
A defense lawyer may argue that abuse is unclear. The exact allegations may not fit the definition for abuse or neglect because they are broadly defined.
The lawyer may discredit the verified complaint. Scrutiny may involve inconsistencies or misrepresentations that can be brought to light in support of the parent’s defense.
The defense may argue about the investigation process. The mandatory investigation process is specific and detailed. If the case worker skipped a necessary interview, it may constitute as a botched process. The defense can argue that the DCPP did not collect all evidence that may have exonerated the accused parent.
The lawyer might argue that one incident does not indicate abuse. When the allegations are based on one incident, the defense may try to prove that patterns of abuse do not exist.
It could be argued that someone else harmed the child. The defense may present a case that someone else actually caused harm to the child.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer After Abuse Allegations?
Child abuse and neglect allegations are serious. If a parent is facing such accusations, it is critical that they retain a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can construct a good defense and ensure that the parent’s rights are protected. A strong legal defense is important in these cases.
Cherry Hill DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Provide Solid Defense Tactics in DCPP Cases
If you are facing charges of child abuse or neglect, you should talk with one of our Cherry Hill DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. We protect parents against false child abuse allegations. We understand that these accusations are serious, and we will protect your rights. Call us atc or contact us online for an initial consultation today. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.