Retaliatory DCPP Reports May Be Considered Domestic Violence Harassment

False Child Abuse Reports to DCPP are Often Driven By Retaliation in Disputes, Especially Among Divorced Couples or Family Members in New Jersey.

Retaliatory DCPP Reports May Be Considered Domestic Violence Harassment in New JerseyReporting child abuse is a duty everyone has to keep children safe. But when abuse is falsely reported to DCPP, it is illegal. False reports occur most between divorced couples as a form of retaliation for the unsuccessful relationship, infidelity, or sour grapes in terms of the divorce settlement. A parent who wants more visitation time or doesn’t want to pay child support may make a false report to retain full custody of the child. Disputes among family members can lead to a false report and in some cases, this conduct may be considered a form of harassment. Submitting a false report to DCPP can be seen as a means by which to harass someone else, as decided by the court in a recent case in New Jersey.

Learning From a Case of False Allegations to Child Protective Services Considered an Act of Domestic Violence in NJ

In E.W. v. W.M.H, during a brief relationship, the plaintiff had given the defendant large sums of money, which were taken under false pretense and for fraudulent reasons. Within 24 hours of having received notification of the civil suit filed against them and realizing that criminal charges were to ensue, they called DCPP. They reported that the plaintiff was smoking marijuana around her child in an act of retaliation for the lawsuit.

The lawyer for the defense claimed because of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.13, his client was immune to any prosecution for reporting the alleged abuse as the law states,” Anyone acting pursuant to this act in the making of a report under this act shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed. Any such person shall have the same immunity with respect to testimony given in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report.”

The judge rejected the idea that the defendant was immune and that the defendant’s actions constituted a form of domestic violence. By applying the immunity statute, the act of domestic abuse would put the child at risk, as spousal abuse and child abuse are linked. The court determined that the immunity statute did not apply in the case of domestic violence and that to have done so would create a way for unlimited vindictive DCPP reporting cases.

Absolute Immunity in Reporting NJ Child Abuse Cases

Absolute immunity is a legal principle that protects a person from civil or criminal liability. In the case of reporting abuse to DCPP, it is used to protect the reporter from reprisals on the part of the affected parents.

The Limits of Immunity on Child Abuse Reporting in New Jersey

When child abuse is reported as a form of retaliation in a situation of domestic violence, immunity does not apply.

Balancing Immunity and Child Protection in Cases of Vindictive DYFS Reporting

If the immunity statute is applied, repeated and vindictive reporting of child abuse will convert what is to be a safeguard for children into a tool for domestic violence that ultimately leads to further child abuse.

For example, perhaps Joan is the mother of three children. In the midst of a bitter divorce, DCPP has received repeated reports of drug use and abandonment in recent months. As DCPP is obligated to investigate every case of suspected abuse, Joan has received several home visits, during which her children are interviewed over and over again. The increased stress on the family has caused increased anxiety in the children, manifested as headaches, sleep disorders (insomnia and nightmares), and digestive malaise. The psychological consequences repeated intervention can have can be devastating. Unless the immunity statute is revoked in this instance, the abuse could continue indefinitely, causing irreparable harm to Joan’s children.

Civil Consequences of False Child Abuse Reports With DCPP

While the law is designed to protect children from abuse, malicious reports or repeated unfounded reports can lead to a civil suit by the accused party. If an intentional, baseless allegation leads to an investigation by DCPP, the affected party can request damages in a civil suit against the abusive accuser. Civil damages can include costs to disprove the accusations from DCPP, attorney’s fees, defamation, emotional distress, and a change in child custody parenting time if the accuser is a parent to the children involved.

Civil Repercussions Stemming from Inaccurate Child Abuse Reports Made to DCPP in NJPotential Harassment Penalties for False Reports to DCPP in a Domestic Violence Context

Someone who submits a false report to DCPP can be charged with harassment if the person accused and the person making the accusation meet the criteria for a domestic violence relationship. Harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense which could mean 30 days in jail, community service, and fines. In addition, domestic violence harassment may be used as the basis for filing a temporary restraining order. Then, it is up to court to determine if adequate evidence exists to satisfy the necessary elements for the issuance of a final restraining order.

Dealing With the Aftermath of Vindictive Reports to DCPP in New Jersey?

Being falsely accused of child abuse, especially when it is used as domestic abuse and aggression, has a detrimental effect not only on you but on your children. The constant phone calls, visits, interviews, repeated questions, and maybe even accusations can leave you at your wit’s end. What you are experiencing is unfair and, ultimately, illegal.

We have the resources you need to get your life back in South Brunswick, Morristown, Jersey City, Union, Paramus, Bergenfield, and the entire state of New Jersey. We can not only help you fight the accusations that have been wrongly placed against you but also build a case against your abuser. You are entitled to the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won’t be harassed further. You shouldn’t have your life turned upside down because someone is abusing the system. Contact us today at (908)-356-6900 for a complimentary and private consultation to review your situation.

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