Does Child Abuse go on Your Criminal Record in New Jersey?
Anyone can be charged with a crime for abuse and neglect in New Jersey, while simultaneously facing a family matter involved with a claim of abuse and neglect by DCP&P. People charged with abuse and neglect often have cases both in family court and criminal court. The main distinction between a criminal case and a family case is that in family court there is no crime listed on your criminal record and you cannot go to state prison or be placed on probation. In most circumstances, unlike a crime, a finding of abuse and neglect by DCP&P will not impact your employment. A criminal conviction for abuse or neglect, on the other hand, will appear on a background check. Here’s how it works.
Can DCP&P File a Criminal Charge Against Me?
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) can charge a parent, guardian, or caregiver with child abuse and neglect in New Jersey. A finding of child abuse and neglect by DCP&P is not a criminal matter, but has serious consequences. These consequences include adding the person’s name to New Jersey’s Statewide Child Abuse Registry.
DCP&P has no authority to file a criminal complaint, but the agency can refer the case to local law enforcement or the county prosecutor. It is possible for a person to have abuse and neglect charges against him or her in both the Family Court and Criminal Court. However, in many cases, DCPP files a complaint in Family Court or chooses not to file a claim and independently investigates the allegation.
How does DCPP Substantiate Child Abuse and Neglect?
Upon receiving a referral for abuse and neglect, DCPP has 24 hours to investigate and check on the welfare of the children. A caseworker will determine whether the children should remain in the home while providing services or if the children should be immediately removed due to imminent danger.
If the children are removed, there will be a court hearing within days to determine if the children should continue to live outside of the home until the final hearing. At a final hearing, the judge will make a finding that the abuse and neglect is either substantiated or unfounded.
As mentioned above, many cases are investigated by DCP&P but never filed in court. The Division can make findings of abuse and neglect based upon their own investigation. After the investigation is complete (approximately 60 days), DCP&P will send the accused a letter outlining its finding and advising of the outcome. The letter will set forth a finding that the abuse was either substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded. There are certain non-penal consequences for someone that DCP&P has substantiated child abuse against.
Is a Child Abuse Finding Documented Somewhere?
New Jersey Law requires DCP&P to keep a statewide registry of persons within the state who have substantiated claims of child abuse against them. This registry is known as The Child Abuse Registry and it contains the names of people that have been found to commit acts of abuse or neglect. The registry is not a criminal database and will not show up on your criminal record. The database is used for purposes that do not involve the criminal court.
The child abuse registry will list your name and information and a substantiated finding of abuse and neglect. Employers that require licensing, such as child care providers, are required to look on the registry before hiring anyone. Employers providing services to persons at risk of abuse (elderly/childcare) would not be able to hire those listed on the registry.
Additionally, there are other impacts upon individuals listed on the registry. A substantiation of abuse would prohibit a person from becoming a foster, resource, or adoptive parent. More importantly, if child custody becomes an issue in the future with the child in question or, with another child, the substantiated abuse could be used against the parent.
What can I do to Disprove Child Abuse Claims in New Jersey?
Despite the above, there are things that a person can do to fight the claim of abuse. If you have received notice of abuse and neglect by DCP&P, contact an attorney immediately to understand your rights. Do not ignore the notice or your right to appeal as the impact of a substantiated finding can negatively impact your life as well as the life of your child. In addition to defending you in criminal court for child abuse charges and family court for DCP&P proceedings, you or your attorney have 20 days from the date you received the notice to appeal the finding of abuse. Anyone appealing a finding of abuse must follow certain steps in filing the appeal or otherwise risk waiving a right to appeal. If you have a DCPP case in New Jersey, contact our office today at (908)-356-6900 to discuss how we can help in the case against you to protect your rights. We provide free consultations so feel free to contact us online or by phone for assistance.