How To Deal With DYFS
What are my rights against DYFS in New Jersey?
You should treat a DYFS or Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigation the same way that you would treat a criminal investigation.
Although DYFS/DCPP cannot arrest you or file a criminal charge, they work very closely with the County Prosecutor’s office & local law enforcement.
Anything you say to a DYFS investigator can be used to bring criminal charges against you.
What's a "Mandatory Reporter"?
DYFS/DCPP in New Jersey intervenes in family issues involving allegations of child neglect and child abuse.
Under unique circumstances, DYFS/DCPP may petition parents to participate in counseling, parenting classes, and substance abuse treatment.
Children can even be placed into foster care.
DYFS/DCPP is typically called upon to intervene based upon information given by a “reporter”.
A reporter is someone like a teacher, school nurse, hospital employee, or other person owing the state of New Jersey a duty to report.
People involved in certain professions are referred to as mandatory reporters.
These professionals have no choice in the matter and are required to report signs of child abuse and child neglect to DYFS/DCPP.
Regardless of the reporter’s intentions in these matters, the simple allegation of child abuse or neglect triggers devastating consequences for each family involved.
Anonymous & False DYFS claims?
Unfortunately, anonymous reports of abuse and neglect are made by former spouses or close relatives.
The motivation and reasons for making these anonymous reports vary from jealousy to revenge.
Anonymous reports can follow failed marriages and/or infidelity between spouses.
Regardless of the reasons, DYFS/DCPP must investigate anonymous reports of abuse and neglect towards a child.
DYFS/DCPP still has a legal duty and obligation to investigate.
We know it is unfair, but this is the DYFS law in NJ.
If you are the accused, you may feel all alone.
You will desperately need someone to help you defend your innocence.
It is best to have legal counsel in these situations.
If the allegations involve conduct involving criminal liability you may also be arrested and charged with serious felony charges.
Felony charges such as Aggravated Sex Assault involve the potential for mandatory state incarceration.
This means that if you are found guilty of the felony charges, you may go to prison for many years.
DYFS Generates A Complaint
Someone will notify DYFS that they believe your child is being abused or negelected.
DYFS will generate a complaint and file it.
Once you are served with a notice to show cause, the case begins.
A notice to show cause is the court’s way of saying to you, “Okay, explain to me or show me why these allegations of abuse and neglect are not true.”
But who filed the DYFS case against me?
There are circumstances where you will be provided with sworn affidavits of the witnesses who make the allegations against you for abuse and neglect.
However, many times, DYFS will investigate these allegations after having received anonymous tips.
DYFS has a duty to investigate all abuse and neglect cases even if the person making the accusation hides behind their anonymity.
The well-being of a child overrides the need to know the identity of the accuser.
How Is Abuse And Neglect Defined?
NJ DYFS law defines abuse and neglect in the following manner:
Abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional harm or risk of harm to a child under the age of 18 caused by a parent or other person who acts as a caregiver for the child.
Neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide proper supervision for a child or adequate food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care although financially able or assisted to do so.
In some instances, allegations regarding sexual abuse may develop into criminal felony charges.
This is why you need an attorney to help you from day one.
Clients are not aware of their constitutional rights and often fail to assert their right to remain silent when questioned by agents of the state.
Other consequences involve having your child removed from your home and placed in foster care with another family.
Again, these consequences can be devastating for you and your family.
should i speak to dYFS?
In the early stages of your case, you may respond to DYFS phone calls in a polite manner.
It’s best to hire an attorney as soon as you learn that you are under investigation.
A NJ DYFS lawyer will guide you the right way.
All communications with DYFS should go through your lawyer.
Always remember that you are entitled to a trial.
In the context of DYFS, it is called a fact-finding hearing.
This is your constitutional “day in court”.
Through your attorney, you are allowed to confront all witnesses against you, present your own witnesses, present all exonerating evidence and most importantly, you are allowed to testify and tell your side of the story.
These trials may be lengthy and very complicated. once again, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you.
Keep in mind that DYFS will present their case through their own lawyer so you should also have your own lawyer who will defend you and fight for you.
How long does a DYFS case last?
Every case is different.
Some investigations are closed within a few months.
If there are any serious issues which require litigation, the cases could extend from 1-2 years.
Remember, the types of abuse and neglect of a child can take many forms.
If DYFS/DCPP finds signs of of child abuse, it will file an emergency complaint.
As a parent, you will need to hire private counsel unless your income falls below a certain level.
Once you are cleared of child abuse, DYFS/DCPP will close its case and you will stop hearing from them.
what happens if i lose my DYFS case?
You have 45 days to appeal.
can i refuse to speak to DYFS investigators?
Yes, but be polite.
If DYFS/DCPP investigators knock on your door, you do not have to let them into your house and you do not have to answer their questions.
It is totally okay to state that you are confused and do not know what is going on.
You are allowed to ask for some time to speak with a lawyer & learn your rights.
People try to explain situations that they know nothing about.
First, hire a lawyer and then schedule an appointment with DYFS through your lawyer. Keep it professional!
Even though DYFS cannot arrest you, they can report your statements to law enforcement AND law enforcement will arrest you.
Just keep calm and keep it simple.
Don’t talk to anyone until you’ve consulted an attorney.
Our consultations are FREE & Confidential.