How Long does a DCPP Case Take in New Jersey?
What’s the Time Frame for a DCPP Case in NJ?
If you’re currently being investigated by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) in New Jersey, you may be wondering how long will the case take to complete. It’s difficult to give an accurate timeline for a DYFS case because every parent’s case is different. However, we can discuss some estimates based upon the language of the controlling statutes and codes, along with our years of experience as DCPP attorneys assisting clients throughout New Jersey.
To start, DCP&P cases have two overlapping proceedings. There is an out-of-court Administrative action handled by the Department of Child and Families (DCF) and there may also be an in-court Litigation Action handled by the Attorney General’s Office.
How Long does a DCF Investigation Take in New Jersey?
The Administrative case begins when DCF receives a referral. From there, a investigator must investigate the complaint by visiting the child’s home and interviewing any person who may have any information about the complaint. The underlying investigation is supposed to conclude within 60 days, however, upon a showing of good cause, it can be extended in 30 day increments. When the investigation concludes, the investigator shall make findings of either “substantiated,” “established,” “not established,” or “unfounded,” for each report of abuse or neglect.
Following a decision, DCF is required to notify the parent of its findings. It will do so by sending him or her a letter stating the outcome of the investigation. If the letter reads DCF made a finding of substantiated or established, the person has a right to a hearing before the Office of Administrative Law to challenge the decision. To challenge the finding, the parent must notify the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days. If the letter reads not established or unfounded, there is no right to a hearing, however, the individual may file an appeal with the Appellate Division.
DCPP Case in Court: What’s Process?
With respect to in-court Litigation Proceedings, the case will generally begin in a similar manner, DCF will receive a referral and an investigator will start his or her investigation. However, the matter will enter the our court system if there is a child in imminent danger or there are children or parents in need of care and services. Services may include parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence counseling, mental health treatment, or any other family related services.
The amount of time the case will remain before the Court depends on the facts of the case, the services imposed, and which statute the Court is operating under. Child welfare cases are governed by two statutes: Title 9 and Title 30. Title 9 governs cases where the parents are being accused of abusing or neglecting their child. Title 30 control cases where DCP&P believes the family is in need of care and supervision due to welfare concerns, however, the circumstances do not rise to the level of abuse or neglect.
Title 9 DCPP Case Timeline
For actions falling under Title 9, the case will generally take six months to a year to fully litigate. Again, every case is different . Some cases will conclude sooner than others. But generally, Title 9 actions will be begin by the filing of an Order to Show Cause and Verified Complaint. The Complaint will outline DCPP’s allegations and any history the parents have had with DCPP or DCF. The Judge will review the Complaint and enter an order addressing custody, parenting time, and services. Next, the Court will schedule a return date within 30 days to readdress its order. Because the filing occurs with little to no notice to the parents, the Court will rehear the matter so the parents have a fair opportunity to be heard. If new evidence is brought to the Court’s attention, the prior order may be modified.
Thereafter, a case management conference and compliance hearing will be scheduled to be heard in three months. At that hearing, the Court will address discovery, the progress of any imposed services, and most importantly, the welfare of the child. From there, the Court will then schedule a fact-finding/trial to hear the merits of DCP&P’s case. If the Judge determines that an act of abuse or neglect was committed, the Judge will hold a dispositional hearing to once again, address custody, parenting time, and services based upon the finding of abuse or neglect. At that point, the Court will continue to review the matter every three months to monitor services and to determine whether custody can be returned to the parents or whether the child will be placed up for adoption. If there is no finding of abuse or neglect, the case will either proceed under Title 30 or be dismissed outright.
When will my Title 30 Child Care & Supervision Case be Over?
For actions being litigated under Title 30, the case proceeds in a similar manner. An Order to Show Case and Verified Complaint is filed and the Judge will review the Complaint and enter an appropriate order addressing custody, parenting time, and services. However, unlike Title 9, a summary hearing will be held in six months to determine whether care and supervision is still needed. At the hearing, DCP&P must demonstrate to the Court that a welfare concern still exists and continued care and supervision is needed for the best interests of the child. If the Judge agrees, the case will remain open. If the Judge disagrees, the case will be dismissed.
Have a Case with DCPP in New Jersey, What Should I do?
If the Department of Children and Families or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency has entered your life, you should contact an experienced New Jersey 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 DCF or DCPP involvement in your family’s life. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of the legal and personal aspects of DYFS cases in New Jersey because we have been defending clients in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, and across the state for years. Contact our offices now for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.