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Allison Williams Williams Law Group Family Law, Divorce, Custody & Support
As an attorney, it has always been, and will always be, about helping people. I'm passionate about my clients and I aggressively represent them. The Williams Law Group uses ethical means to create winning strategies. If you have a legal issue/s, we'd like to hear your message!
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November, 2012

Allison C. Williams, Esq., Founder of NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com, to Appear on the Katie Couric Show

Allison C. Williams, Esq., founder of http://NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com, is going to appear on the Katie Couric show!!! The topic: Parents wrongfully Accused of Child Abuse. The show will be taped on Monday, December 3, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. During the program, Ms. Williams will be blogging on the issues discussed by Katie and the panelists. Stop by http://NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com on December 3rd for continuing commentary from the show. Or, better yet, register to receive regular updates from the cite going forward. Ms. Williams shares and discusses the implications of articles, case law, statutes and topics pertinent to defense of parents and families in Child Welfare...

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Spanking + Accidental Injury = Child Abuse

When parents ask, “Is it ‘child abuse’ to spank my child”, the answer on paper is no. New Jersey prohibits “excessive” corporal punishment, thereby clearly permitting corporal punishment that is not excessive. See, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c); N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. K.A., 413 N.J. Super. 504, 510-11 (App. Div. 2010). However, the Appellate Division’s interpretations of the K.A. case, the first published opinion to provide a framework to evaluate conduct and consequences that will render corporal punishment to be “excessive”, clearly show that our courts have little to no tolerance for parents who accidentally “injure” a child during the course of a spanking. The most recent unreported decision that demonstrates this point is New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. R.S., A-0074-11T4 (OAL Docket No. AHU 09-1698). In R.S., the grandmother of a five year old child spanked him on the behind and legs with a belt due to the child’s aggressive behavior toward his teacher. During the course of the spanking, the child squirmed and the belt accidentally hit the child in the face, causing a mark. The Appellate Division concurred with DYFS that this constitutes child abuse, calling the spanking “willful and wanton” misconduct, i.e., reckless. What made this spanking “reckless”, rather than merely “negligent”? The grandmother should have foreseen that the child would attempt to evade the spanking because he had recently gotten into trouble at school for running away from his teacher. Applying this standard, any child who does not passively and peacefully accept a spanking – i.e., the children who likely need the discipline the most – cannot be spanked absent a finding that the “perpetrator” was “reckless” for using this form of discipline. The Appellate Division also considers the use of the belt to be of significance. In K.A., the mother balled up her fist and punched her child repeatedly in anger and frustration. This form of discipline was merely “negligent” because it did not cause a visible mark and was considered an “ill-conceived impulse”. Yet, a grandparent who makes a conscious decision to obtain a belt and administer discipline is said to have assaulted the child. The age of the child was also a distinguishing factor. In K.A., the child was age 8. The Appellate court in R.S. also mentions the P.W.R. case involving a slap in the face of a 16 year old stepchild. Apparently, one should...

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Happy Thanksgiving to the Families of New Jersey!

This time of year is fraught with sadness for so many people – particularly those children and families that are kept from their loved ones due to allegations of abuse or neglect. When abuse has been substantiated, families are kept apart to ensure safety of children. However, when abuse is only suspected, the separation of children from their families is all the more troubling and tragic. The Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), n/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“DCPP”) – like many other partiers involved in family court litigation – is usually taxed with requests for holiday parenting time at this time of the year. Last minute requests for increased parenting time, approval of additional supervisors, overnight access to allow all family members to attend gatherings out of state, present in droves. To increase the likelihood that your family may enjoy time together at the holidays, during the pendency of a DYFS/DCPP matter, here are a few suggestions: 1. Aim to address holiday parenting time requests at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance of the holiday. 2. Identify as many family members and friends to the agency that may be evaluated and approved to supervise parenting time. A person who may be ineligible for placement (e.g., because of inadequate shelter) may be approved to serve as a supervisor at a holiday party. 3. Remember that not every parent requires supervision. The Division almost universally requests supervised parenting time for parents accused of any form of abuse or neglect. However, the agency and the court must identify a basis for supervision, and absent same, visitation is to be unsupervised. If the allegation is medical neglect of a child, what risk can be identified from the alleged neglectful parent spending time in the presence of the child at a holiday event, when someone else in the family would be responsible for the child’s medical needs if any? Do not be afraid to make the argument. 4. Supervised overnight parenting time is not impossible to accomplish while ensuring safety for the child. If the accused parent has a substance abuse problem, how likely is it that the parent will abstain from substances while supervised until the child’s bedtime, but then, while the child is asleep, abuse substances and place the child at risk? Not very. 5. Expansion of parenting time at the holidays is very common. Seek...

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Mandatory Reporting of Child Neglect may Open the Floodgates

A medical malpractice case published on November 16, 2012, provides us with a new standard – and clear requirements – for reporting child abuse and neglect. In L.A. v. New Jersey Div. of Youth and Fam. Svcs, Jersey Shore Medical Center, Dr. Yu, et. al. , the Appellate Division interpreted the mandatory reporting provisions of Title 9, specifically N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10, which provides: “[a]ny person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse, or acts of child abuse, shall report the same immediately to [DYFS]”. In L.A., a physician was sued for medical malpractice because of his failure to report to DYFS a child’s treatment in the Emergency Room. The child ingested cologne and was found to have a blood alcohol content of .035. There was no allegation or concern that this ingestion was intentional or a purposeful act of her caregivers. But, rather, concern arose over whether or not the child had been the subject of inadequate supervision or some other form of negligent conduct. In the child welfare conduct, “negligence” is defined as willful and wanton misconduct – i.e., the recklessness standard. This physician asserted that he had no concern for physical abuse, and therefore, no duty to report to DYFS. The Appellate Division disagreed. In interpreting the mandatory reporting provisions of Title 9, the Court remanded the case to the trial court for a jury trial on the issue of whether or not the physician breached his duty of care and committed medical malpractice by failing to report negligence (i.e., recklessness) to DYFS. Ultimately, this ruling is consonant with the rubric of analysis in child welfare cases – child abuse and neglect endangers child safety, and therefore, should be addressed through the procedures established by law. However, L.A. raises the series of concerns for New Jersey families. First, the Appellate Division notes that the mandatory reporting is no longer just for medical professionals, but for “any person”. Since L.A. requires reporting of negligent conduct for physicians, that mandate also applies for “any person” who becomes aware of negligence. Second, the L.A. Court held that the reporting requirement is not triggered by “mere suspicions”. However, little more than that is required: [T]he triggering of the obligation to report, especially in the context of civil litigation involving professional malpractice, does not require the potential reporter to possess the quantum of proof necessary for...

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Allison C. Williams, Esq. to Present a CLE on Confidential DYFS Records

New Jersey, among other states, requires licensed attorneys to attend a certain number of hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs every two years. Many bar associations and private companies provide these programs; however, the largest provider in the state is the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education (www.njicle.com). On Monday, November 12, 2012, Allison C. Williams, Esq. will be presenting for NJICLE in the Annual Hot Tips for Family Lawyers CLE. The Hot Tips CLE includes a wealth of information from 40 presenters, providing practice pointers for attorneys addressing a wide array of topics. Ms. Williams will be presenting on DYFS issues – specifically, how to gain access to confidential records maintained by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), now known as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP). Provided to each attendee at the CLE presentation will be a comprehensive book of materials containing the article authored by Ms. Williams. That article will be available here on NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com in the upcoming weeks. Check back for a copy of the article and for more valuable information all about defense of parents in DYFS/DCPP...

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