Atlantic County Couple Accused of Torturing Toddler
A New Jersey couple was recently arrested and charged with endangering with welfare of a child after medical professionals determined that their two-year-old daughter suffered severe physical abuse. In fact, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office indicated that the child suffered “torture” at the hands of her mother and father. The child’s injuries reportedly included bone fractures, a brain bleed, and deep burns to her hand and foot. Moreover, the child had reportedly lost weight and hair while in her parents’ custody. Initially, the parents did not seek medical attention for the child. It was only when the toddler began having seizures that she was admitted to Cooper University Hospital to receive urgent medical treatment for life-threatening injuries. In addition to the child endangerment charge, the mother was also charged with aggravated assault. Additionally, as a result of the incident, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), intervened and took custody of the child on an emergent basis.
In order for DCPP to take custody of a child during an emergency situation and without a court order, the Division must determine that the child is at a risk of harm and that the parents pose an immediate danger to the child. In some circumstances, the determination is an easy one – for example, when a toddler has suffered broken bones at the hands of his or her parents. However, other cases are not so clear cut. In any case, when DCPP takes custody of a child without a court order, that matter must be heard in the New Jersey Superior Court, Family Part within two days so that a family court judge can determine whether there is a prima facie basis for the Division to maintain custody of the child. At that hearing, DCPP will file a Verified Complaint for Custody and an Order to Show Cause for Custody and the court will have to determine whether the child’s continuation in the parents’ custody would be contrary to the welfare of the child, as well as whether there were any reasonable efforts that could have been implemented to prevent the state from taking custody.
During an Order to Show Cause hearing, DCPP’s case will be presented to the court by a Deputy Attorney General and the child’s interests will be represented by a Law Guardian appointed by the Public Defender’s Office. Additionally, parents are entitled to be represented by an attorney during all DCPP litigation, including the initial hearing of the Order to Show Cause. If parents cannot afford private representation, the court will appoint a Public Defender from the Office of Parental Representation. The bottom line is that any time DCPP files a complaint in court, the stakes are high. Attorneys will be involved to represent the Division and the child – so parents should have an experienced DCPP attorney on their side too. That’s where the Tormey Law Firm comes in: our seasoned team of DCPP defense lawyers is available 24/7 to fight for parents who are accused of abuse or neglect and who need a voice in the complicated arena of child protective services litigation.