Constitutional Parental Rights in NJ
New Jersey DCP&P Defense Lawyers in Morristown, NJ
Parents have a number of rights when it comes to maintaining a relationship with their children. Both federal and state courts have recognized that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children without state interference, unless the parent-child relationship harms the children or places the children at risk of harm. In addition, parents also have fundamental due process rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard if the Division of Child Protection and Permanency files a complaint alleging child welfare concerns, abuse or neglect, or requesting termination of parental rights. In addition to those fundamental rights, New Jersey Statutes and Regulations establish that parents have a right to be informed of their child’s development and health if DCP&P has custody of the child and that parents have a right to visitation unless visitation would place the child at a risk of harm. In addition to all of the above rights, parents also have a right to be represented by an attorney in all types of DCP&P litigation.
If the Division files a complaint against you alleging child welfare concerns, child abuse or neglect, or seeking to termination your parental rights, you should contact an experienced DCP&P defense attorney who is knowledgeable in the aspects of parental rights associated with child welfare, abuse and neglect, and guardianship litigation. Our Morris County DCP&P lawyers are available now to assist you in Dover, Denville, Madison, Florham Park, and Kinnelon and the initial consultation is always provided free of charge at (908)-356-6900.
Constitutional Parental Rights in New Jersey
The United States Supreme Court and the New Jersey Supreme Court have held that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to raise their children. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972); N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. G.L., 191 N.J. 596 (2007). But although parents have a fundamental liberty interest in raising their biological children, those rights are not absolute and must be balanced against the state’s responsibility to protect the welfare of children, or parens patriae responsibility. In re Guardianship of J.C., 129 N.J. 1 (1992). In fact, it is public policy that “the preservation and strengthening of family life is a matter of public concern as being in the interests of the general welfare, but the health and safety of the child shall be the State’s paramount concern when making a decision on whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to preserve the family unit. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-1. Accordingly, the state is not without control over parental discretion when a child’s physical or mental health is jeopardized by the child-parent relationship. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. R.L., 388 N.J. Super. 81 (2006).
Due process essentially means that if the Division of Child Protection and Permanency files a complaint against a parent alleging child abuse or neglect or seeking termination of parental rights, a parent has a right to received notice of that complaint and an opportunity to be heard. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. B.M., 413 N.J. Super. 118 (App. Div. 2010). Due process also requires that parental rights must be evaluated on an individual basis because parental rights are individual in nature. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J., 261 (2007). In other words, just because one parent may be an unfit parent, that does not permit the Court to terminate the other parent’s rights. In addition, in balancing the parent’s rights and the State’s obligation to protect the welfare of children, the Court will utilize an application of the best interest of the child standard. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. F.H., 389 N.J. Super. 576 (App. Div. 2007).
Moreover, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that a court’s authority to remove children from the custody of their parents “must be exercised with scrupulous adherence to procedural safeguards [that] are designed to serve dual salutary functions: to protect innocent parents against precipitous governmental intrusion or interference with their fundamental rights to the parental relationship and to spare children the emotional trauma resulting from an unwarranted separation from their parents.” N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. J.Y., 352 N.J. Super. 245 (App. Div. 2002). In addition to procedural safeguards, when a parent is faced with a temporary or permanent loss of parental rights, a parent’s rights to have legal representation is assured by the due process guarantee of state constitution and statute that requires the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to inform parents of a right to obtain counsel and how to obtain counsel through the public defender’s office. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. N.S., 412 N.J. Super. 593 (App. Div. 2010).
Experienced Morris County DYFS Defense Lawyers Available Now to Assist You
If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency removed your child from your custody, you should contact a DCP&P defense attorney who is familiar with the fundamental aspects of the parent-child relationship and who is also knowledgeable of the procedural safeguards in place to prevent unnecessary DCP&P involvement in your family’s life. Contact our offices now for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.