Domestic Violence as Abuse and Neglect in DCP&P Cases
Child Services and Domestic Violence Lawyers Near Me in New Jersey
Domestic violence is an unfortunate problem in our society and, sadly, children are often present while their parents are engaging in domestic violence disputes. In some of those cases, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency receives referrals regarding the family and will initiate an investigation to determine if the children have been abused or neglected or if there are child welfare concerns. If you have been involved in a domestic violence situation and DCP&P is now involved with your family, you are no doubt dealing with a very stressful time and you should contact an experienced DYFS & domestic violence defense attorney to help you through this difficult time.
The DCP&P attorneys at our offices are available to discuss your case and help you defend yourself against allegations of child abuse or neglect resulting from domestic violence in your family throughout New Jersey, including in Somerset County, Morris County, Bergen County, Monmouth County, and Middlesex County. Contact our offices now for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900 or contact us online day or night. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.
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Domestic Violence, Child Abuse & Neglect in NJ
Unfortunately, in many cases where domestic violence is suspected or charged, child abuse and neglect are often also present. Both the federal law under 42 U.S.C. § 5106a, Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and New Jersey state law under N.J.S.A. 30:4C, Dependent and Neglected Children attempt to prevent domestic violence and its negative impact on children. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) will investigate any matter related to the concerns surrounding a child’s welfare.
Is Domestic Violence Considered Child Abuse in NJ?
Under New Jersey’s child abuse and neglect law, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court held that merely being present during an episode of domestic violence does not automatically equate to child abuse or neglect. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. S.S., 372 N.J. Super. 13 (App. Div. 2004). In that case the trial court found that the mother abused or neglected her child because she failed to appreciate the risk of harm posed by her abusive husband. Specifically, the mother fell victim to domestic violence at the hands of the father while their twenty-one month old son was present. The Appellate Division, however, reversed the trial court’s decision because it did not focus on actual or potential physical harm to the child but only the potential harm to the mental or emotional condition of the child resulting from observing the domestic violence.
The Appellate Division further explained that the problem with the trial court’s rationale was that it assumed that witnessing domestic violence caused emotional harm, without expert testimony. In fact, the Court stated, “if we could take judicial notice of the fact that domestic violence begets emotional distress or other psychic injuries in child witnesses, we would be less concerned by the court’s conclusion here that the appellant was an abuser. However, we cannot.” The Appellate Court cited to the United State’s Supreme Court holding that harm cannot be presumed in the absence of evidence of its existence or potential. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972). In other words, without specific evidence presented during the fact-finding trial of how the domestic violence actually or potentially harmed the child, there was not enough evidence to find that the child was abused or neglected merely by being present during a domestic violence incident.
Obviously, witnessing any type of violence can leave a permanent negative impact on a child. The devastation emotionally and mentally can be even more serious when the violence exists in the home and is a frequent occurrence. Children witnessing domestic abuse against one of their parents can be catastrophic to their emotional health. However, New Jersey courts have held that just because is child witnesses or is in the same home when domestic violence occurs, may not be enough to rise to the level of child abuse and neglect necessarily.
When Would Domestic Abuse Amount to Child Abuse or Neglect in New Jersey?
If a child witnesses one domestic partner abusing another under certain circumstances, it may be considered child abuse or neglect by the state of New Jersey. There have been cases in which a child has had to witness horrific violence such as physical abuse, thrown objects, or words that include the threat of murder, that represent exceptions. In these specific cases, courts have determined that these children were indeed victims of abuse or neglect, as they were subject to unsafe living conditions. The legal theory of abuse or neglect is typically used within cases involving DCP&P. Abusing your spouse or domestic partner in front of a child could be seen as abuse or neglect under limited circumstances. Title Nine of the statute states that any child, “whose physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as the result of the failure of his…guardian…to exercise a minimum degree of care” is considered by law to be neglected. Each case is unique and has its own facts and circumstances, but this section is generally applied along with other child abuse laws and the totality of the circumstances.
DCP&P Investigating my Family for Domestic Violence, What Should I do?
If you have been abused due to domestic violence, you may be concerned about the ability to retain custody of your child. New Jersey has created a guide for parents involved in child abuse or neglect cases, which includes scenarios and definitions of abuse and neglect according to the courts. One of those scenarios is if a parent, guardian, or caretaker created a risk that a child would be physically harmed. In the case of domestic violence, a DCP&P investigation could lead to a finding that a child in a home with domestic violence could also be physically harmed. In that case, unless the abused parent removes the child from the violent situation and behavior, there is a potential that DCP&P would request the court remove the child from the home for the safety and best interest of the child. If you are the person being abused in a domestic violence situation, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and your child’s safety. If child services becomes involved, you should reach out to a knowledgeable DYFS attorney as soon as you can to protect your rights and interests.
On the other hand, New Jersey looks extremely unfavorably upon people who commit domestic violence and you are even more likely to lose custody or face issues with child custody if you are found to have committed an act of domestic violence. This is also true if you are subject to a restraining order. Violence towards another in the presence of a child, including assault, threats, or criminal restraint, may cause a person to have trouble maintaining custody of that child. There are other potential implications as well, including supervised visitation, changes in your child custody arrangement, and mandatory counseling or anger management. Additionally, you may lose access to your children altogether if you are accused of abusing one or more children. If you are accused of domestic violence and you have a child or multiple children, you should immediately contact a lawyer who can assist in your defense.
Somerville DCP&P and Domestic Violence Lawyers
Every case presented to the trial court by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency is fact-sensitive and depends on a totality of the circumstances. If you are being investigated by DCP&P or the Division has filed a complaint against you alleging that you abused or neglected your child as a result of domestic violence, you should contact an attorney who understands all of the aspects of New Jersey’s child abuse and neglect laws. Learning more about the from a knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand how these laws relate to, and affect your unique case. The DCP&P defense attorneys at our firm are fully familiar with New Jersey’s child abuse and neglect laws and we’re ready to help you defend yourself against an allegation of child abuse or neglect. In addition, if you are facing allegations of domestic violence or you are a victim, the experienced domestic violence attorneys at the firm can assist you with either obtaining a restraining order, defending you against a Final Restraining Order, or handling domestic violence criminal charges on your behalf. Contact us at (908)-356-6900 for a free consultation. A member of our team is available immediately to assist you.