Owner Allison C. Williams, Esq. being interviewed by News 12 at the Prisoner Reentry Training Program for...Read More
Separate And Unequal: Are children of unmarried parents disadvantaged by Summary Procedures in Non-Dissolution Actions?
Separate And Unequal: Are children of unmarried parents disadvantaged by Summary Procedures in Non-Dissolution Actions? By Allison C. Williams, Esq. The New Jersey Family Court system has a stellar reputation throughout the United States for its progressive approach to many issues that plague families in this state. Our Court system has established many different case types to deal with family matters, though many of the case types handle the same issues. For instance, families can litigate custody in a divorce action (handled under the “FM” docket) or in a non-dissolution action (handled under the “FD” docket). Child support and spousal support can also be handled under either docket type. Though the issues are the same no matter which docket type is used, the policies and procedures in these two case types are quite different. Perhaps the different policies stem from the need for efficiency in the administration of justice. Or, perhaps, the historical difference in treatment of children going through a divorce (“FM” cases), verses children going through a non-divorce family dissolution (i.e., children of non-married persons or children whose parents are married, but not yet going through a divorce – “FD” cases) warranted different policies and procedures. Whatever the reason for the differential treatment, one must question if the children involved in these two types of family actions are receiving equal treatment as now required by law. To understand where we are with this problem, one should have a historical overview of the different treatment of children of divorce verses children of non-married persons. This article provides that overview, together with a brief discussion of some of the ways the differential treatment renders these children separate and unequal. Bastardy Proceedings: History of Illegitimates in New Jersey At common law, a child born in wedlock was presumed to be the legitimate offspring of the husband and wife . That principle has deep roots in New Jersey, dating back to 1907 . A distinction in English common law arose in respect of a child born of unmarried parents . At common law, an illegitimate child was filius nullius, the son of no one, or filius populi, the son of the people . The child had no mother or father recognized by law, and therefore had no legal rights. Because the child could not inherit property, the impetus to bear the paternal surname was diminished. “[C]ustom did not dictate the name...Read More
TOP TEN DYFS (DCPP) CASES TO KNOW By Allison C. Williams, Esq. 1. In re Guardianship of Cope, 106 N.J.Super. 336 (App.Div.1969) –Establishes the conditions required in order to admit hearsay evidence through caseworker testimony in a DYFS (DCPP) proceeding. In DYFS (DCPP) proceedings, evidence upon which judgment is based must be as reliable as the circumstances permit and the answering parent must be given the fullest possible opportunity to test the reliability of the Division’s essential evidence by cross-examination 2. G.S. v. Department of Human Services, 157 N.J. 161 (1999) – Establishes the negligence standard for DYFS (DCPP) proceedings. Simple negligence is not enough. A gross negligence standard should be employed in determining whether the parent or guardian has failed to exercise a ‘minimum degree of care’. The Court’s analysis must focus on the harm to the child. 3. In re D.T., 229 N.J.Super. 509 (App.Div.1988) – Proof of the injuries sustained by the child or of the condition of the child of such a nature as would ordinarily not be sustained or exist except by reason of the acts or omissions of the parent are prima facie evidence that the child is an abused or neglected child. Upon the Division making a prima facie showing, the burden of coming forward with evidence shifts to the parents to prove themselves non-culpable. However, the burden of proof always remains with DYFS (DCPP) to prove the abuse. 4. Doe v. G. D. 146 N.J.Super. 419 (App.Div.1976) – Substandard, dirty and inadequate sleeping conditions are unfortunate incidents of poverty; they do not establish child neglect or abuse. Failure to educate and provide intellectual stimulation was not the intended definition of educational neglect; parent contribution to truancy or interference with normal education is required. If a child is voluntarily placed with DYFS (DCPP), then the agency retains the child over the parent’s objection, the parent is under no duty to follow DYFS (DCPP)’s advice as to child-rearing. 5. New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Services v. G.M., 398 N.J.Super. 21 (App.Div.2008) – At the conclusion of the Division’s case, if the accused parent has been found not to have committed the alleged acts, or has addressed the issues prompting DYFS (DCPP) involvement, the parent is entitled to a hearing to determine whether custody should remain with the non-accused parent or should revert to the exonerated parent. 6. New Jersey Div. of...Read More