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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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Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Characteristics of the PAS Diagnosis

Dr. Gardner identified eight factors that can contribute to alienation. The alienating parent engages in a “campaign of denigration” against the targeted parent. In other words, PA is not a spouse saying one mean or spiteful remark out of context. The parent has to systematically say or do things to convince your child of your wrongness.   The depreciation is based on weak or absurd reasons.  It’s one thing for a parent to say: I’m so furious at your father for feeding you nothing but Kool-Aid and cupcakes over the weekend. That’s completely irresponsible, and I’m scared for you to go over there again. It’s quite another thing to say: I can’t believe your dad gave you an ice-cream sundae for dessert. You know how I feel about sugar! I can’t let your father keep poisoning you like that! As with many things in life, the dose makes the poison.   Lack of ambivalence. Even happily married spouses sometimes snap at each other and say less than flattering things in front of their children. However, there’s a big difference between losing your temper and then later reflecting and repenting, and engaging in a relentless, non-ambivalent campaign. For instance, the alienating parent might always call the other parent Mr. Liar or Dr. McCheatOnMe and use these insulting nicknames frequently with the child.   The child claims to come up with negative thoughts about the parent on her own. This is also known as the “independent thinker” phenomenon, and it’s a real hallmark of Parent Alienation. Disturbingly, a child will tell other people – and even come to believe – that he or she invented reasons not to like the targeted parent independently.   The child exhibits “reflexive support” for the alienating parent. This is somewhat related to factor #4; it speaks to the depth and breadth of the brainwashing, as well as the malleable psychology of young kids and adolescents.   The child expresses no feelings of guilt regarding the rejection of the targeted parent. For instance, let’s say the child says “I hate daddy” or “daddy is a mean liar, and I never want to stay at his house.” Even though kids sometimes naturally fight with their parents — or go through periods where they prefer one parent over the other — they usually moderate these stances or at least later “feel bad” about saying mean things. But in...

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FAQs about DCP&P and Child Neglect and Abuse Charges [Part 6]

How do visits with your child work? In general, when your child is in foster care, it’s up to DCP&P to arrange visits that will occur for one hour every other week at the DCP&P office. Your attorney can help you obtain longer and more frequent times to meet up with your child. You also may be able to arrange things, so that you meet with your child outside the DCP&P office at a place like a park or restaurant. Your attorney can help you negotiate other elements of the process, such as when and how you can communicate with your child via mail, phone and email, etc. How should you make most of the visits with your child? The number one rule is to be as pleasant as possible. Put away distractions, such as your cell phone, and be your best self. Demonstrating good behavior at the visits can obviously help you, while losing control verbally, emotionally or physically will obviously not be helpful. Especially since you face false or trumped up allegations, you may find these visits quite emotionally challenging. Perhaps the child is now living with the ex-spouse who lied about you, and the child has grown to believe the false tale that’s been constructed. Or maybe the child is not sure who is telling the truth. Use active listening. Be empathetic. Try to reflect your child’s feelings and needs without getting caught up in your own thoughts, feelings or drama. For instance, let’s say that your child reports that he got a string of D’s and C’s on his report card. He used to be a mostly A and B student. This revelation about the report card could be quite charged. Your instinct might be to sympathize, tell stories, get emotional, blame, etc. For instance you might find yourself saying things along the lines of: • “I’m really disappointed.” • “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t got myself into this mess, your grades would be better.” • “Your teachers are obviously not listening to you.” • “I remember when my friend Johnny went through something similar.” Engaging in this manner makes the situation all about you and your feelings and needs. Instead, take a step back and just be a mirror for your child. You can follow this three-step process. 1. Just reflect the objective facts of the situation, almost as if you...

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FAQs about DCP&P and Child Neglect and Abuse Charges [Part 5]

How confidential is any information I share with my attorney? In general, what you tell your attorney in confidence (when no one else is around) must remain confidential. However, your attorney is obligated to go to the police if you say that you are going to commit a crime in the future. Will the general public be able to access information from the court hearings? No. Both information at the hearings and also information contained in DCP&P’s files must remain confidential. What are some tips and strategies for how to handle your DCP&P caseworker? First off, keep records of who your caseworker is and what happens in various meetings. As the Chinese saying goes, the faintest ink is clearer than strongest memory. Track information, such as the person’s name, email, telephone number, supervisor, etc. Track the dates and times of any conversations or emails with DCP&P representatives (including covering workers, supervisors, etc.). Include failed attempts to reach the agency, such as voice mails or emails that don’t get returned. Your attorney can also help you organize and orchestrate these communications. Be your best self when interacting with DCP&P. Avoid getting heated or overly defensive, even if you feel understandably emotional about the situation. Yelling at people or making inappropriate emotional appeals will not serve your interests. Instead, be business like. Be diligent. Be clear. Understand precisely what your responsibilities are and what kinds of deadlines you have to meet during the process. Stick with facts instead of generalities. What responsibilities does DCP&P have to you and your child? In an ideal world, DCP&P is supposed to try to keep families intact, to create action plans to solve underlying issues and to provide needed support. The reality, as we’ve discussed, can be often quite different and more adversarial. But that’s at least the mission statement. DCP&P, at minimum, must provide a case plan for you and your family, offer services that can restore your family or keep it intact, and keep you up-to-date about the case. If your child is placed in care, DCP&P must set up times for a visit with your child and also inform you about what’s going on with your child educationally, developmentally, medically, and so forth. Is DCP&P obligated to help you? In severe situations, DCP&P can ask the judge to be excused from assisting you, because your parental rights have been ended or because...

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Is supervision required any time DCPP files a complaint alleging abuse?

To learn about supervised visitation any time DCPP files a complaint, watch this...

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FAQs about DCP&P and Child Neglect and Abuse Charges [Part 4]

Can you still get charged with a crime related to the abuse or neglect charges? Yes. The prosecutor’s office can go after you for criminal charges related to abuse or neglect. Will what happens in the criminal case affect what happens in the civil case and vice versa? Yes. For instance, if you admit during the civil case that you did harm your child (even to a minor extent), that fact may then be used in the criminal case, although not directly. Likewise, if you plead guilty in the criminal case, that would have obvious implications for the civil case. When might you be in danger of permanently being stripped of your parental rights? After DCP&P removes your child from the home — and your child is in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months — the agency must file a court case to end your parental rights permanently. Are there any exceptions to this? There are three basic exceptions. First, if your child is living with a relative (such as a mother or brother) who can provide permanent care, DCP&P does not have to file a case. Second, DCP&P might determine that ending your parental rights would not be in the best interest of your child. Third, you can show that DCP&P has failed to provide the help it was supposed to give you, as determined by the court. What is the New Jersey Child Abuse Registry? Often also referred to as the Central Registry, the New Jersey Child Abuse Registry is a list of parents and caregivers whose rights are restricted. Even if ultimately you get your child back and your family intact, your name will still be included in the registry unless you win the Fact Finding hearing. What are the downsides of being included in the Central Registry? First of all, you may not be able to obtain or keep certain jobs in which you work with children or adults with disabilities. Second, you may be disallowed from adopting children or acting as a guardian for the children of relatives. On top of that, the DCP&P must disclose your name to the police and other agencies. Can you get your name off of this registry? Yes. It is possible to clear your name and your record using an administrative process. For skillful, experienced assistance battling back against untrue allegations of child abuse or neglect,...

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Strategies for Finding an Attorney for Your Abuse or Neglect Case

Before you search for a legal representative, take time to reflect. What values do you want to govern the relationship? What goals are important for you to achieve? You probably have a general sense of what you want, but the more specific you can be at the beginning, the better. Understand Your Purpose “All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.” – Brian Tracy Why, exactly, do you want an attorney? You want a specific-enough answer, so that you can easily answer the question: is this relationship on purpose or off purpose? Here are some possible reasons: • You want to heal your family after a single unpleasant incident. For instance, maybe a school nurse noticed that your child had unusual bruises that she picked up after getting bumped on the playground. She reported her concern to authorities, which touched off a nightmare process for you and your partner. You want this process to end, ASAP. • Your ex-spouse made false accusations that you hit, underfed or neglected your children. You obviously want to fight these allegations and clear your name, but you also want to finalize the divorce process with as little “drama” as possible and limit or prevent further legal and emotional peril. • Your spouse (or another caregiver) engaged in parental alienation, and now your child thinks you did some act of wrongdoing that you did not do. Not only do you want to make sure that the truth is known, but you’d also like to restore your relationship with your child and hold the person who engaged in the alienating acts to justice. Try this exercise right now. (Don’t worry about giving a “perfect” answer. Just write down a first draft – whatever comes to mind.) The reason I need a lawyer for my case is: ______________________________________________________________________ For skillful, experienced assistance battling back against untrue allegations of child abuse or neglect, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908)...

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Allison C. Williams presents to the Haydn Proctor Inns of Court

On December 4, 2013, Allison C. Williams will be presenting to the Haydn Proctor Inns of Court. The presentation topic will be Substance Abuse and the Family Law Client. This issue greatly impacts our society. Many assumptions are made about addiction and parenting that cause difficulty for family court judges. Should addiction cause an immediate removal of children? When is excessive alcohol consumption “abuse” verses “addiction”? How do family law attorneys differentiate a substance disorder Axis I diagnosis from episodic abuse? When does addiction implicate greater mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, mania, etc.)? For attorneys, addiction implicates a greater responsibility to the client than merely zealously advocating his or her position (custody, reunification, etc.). For attorneys, addicted clients require guidance, information and assistance. However, what is to be done when an addicted client insists upon a course of action that may be harmful to the client? A course that may be harmful to the client’s child? What if the attorney has devised a strategy that may achieve the client’s litigation goals, while jeopardizing his or her sobriety? These questions and many more will be addressed at the Inns of Court presentation. It will take place from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the American...

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A Father Wrongfully Accused of Rape on the Katie Couric Show

Thomas Kennedy, a father wrongfully accused of raping his daughter, tells his tragic tale on the Katie Couric Show. Thomas, a recovering alcoholic, neglected time with his daughters before he became sober. Unfortunately, post-divorce, his daughter was seeking attention, calling out for help, and this was her plea. Because Thomas is a recovering alcoholic, Katie Couric asked the question if there was any possibility that he did something – anything – and did not recall it. Thomas maintains that this was impossible, as he never drank when he had custody or care of the children. Apparently, years after the wrongful conviction, the child came forward and recanted the allegation. The only evidence against Thomas was his daughter’s accusation. In New Jersey, in order for DYFS (child welfare authorities) to rely upon the child’s hearsay statements of abuse, there must be corroboration. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(a)(4). But, in Thomas’ case, his daughter took the witness stand, pointed to him and testified that he raped her. And, sadly, many people ask the very question that Katie Couric posed to Thomas – why would a child tell such a heinous lie? That natural inclination to wonder makes overcoming such allegations particularly difficult. Here at http://NewJerseyDYFSDefense.com, we can help parents wrongfully accused of child abuse, including child sexual...

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Intoxication from Prescription Drugs is NOT automatically Child Neglect

On October 2, 2012, the Appellate Division published the case of DYFS (DCPP) v. S.N.W., providing trial Courts with guidance to determine allegations of neglect where a parent consumes prescription medication to the point of intoxication. In S.N.W., the parents both ingested prescribed Xanax – allegedly more than the maximum dosage permitted per day – while caring for their children, and as a result of the ingestion, became shaky and unstable, coherent, but visibly intoxicated. During the initial trial, the only evidence of intoxication was the observations of the police officer and the DYFS (DCPP) worker. No medical evidence supported intoxicated; none was offered. Evidence tended to suggest that the mother had taken more medication than was prescribed. The trial court made a finding of neglect, after which an appeal ensued. Ultimately, the case resulted in this published decision, where the Appellate Division gave us two valuable holdings for defense of parents in these cases. First, the Court held that trial Courts MUST focus on the conduct of the parent when evaluating neglect cases – the G.S. standard of “willful and wanton misconduct” that rises to the level of recklessness MUST be present to have “neglect” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c). Second, if the parent ingests medication as prescribed, the legal standard for neglect precludes a finding of neglect. However, if the medication dosage was exceeded, a neglect finding is NOT automatic. Rather, the Court must evaluate various factors, including but not limited to the amount ingested, the physical effect on the parent, whether excess dosage was accidental or deliberate, and the ability of the parent to exercise the minimum degree of care in that state. Again, the Court reiterated – and strengthened the ultimate conclusion – that knee-jerk assumptions of “drugs = neglect” are NOT acceptable under New Jersey...

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Substance Abuse Evaluations by DCPP/DYFS

When the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), f/k/a the Division of Youth and Family Services, (DYFS) receives an allegation of abuse or neglect stemming from the use or abuse of alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal), often the accused parent is asked to submit to a substance abuse evaluation. This process entails meeting with a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) and taking a series of quantitative tests (yes/no; true/false; scale from 1 to 10; etc.) designed to evaluate potentially riskful behaviors involved in substance use. Parents are often loathe to submit to any form of evaluation by the Division for fear that the agency’s bias in referring the parent for evaluation will taint the evaluator and result in an unfair assessment. This fear has much greater validity when the evaluation being proposed is a psychological evaluation, rather than a substance abuse evaluation. The reason is that addiction is succinctly defined as compulsive behavior that continues in the face of adverse consequences. The answers to the substance abuse evaluation determine the risk; whereas, in psychological evaluations, there is a higher degree of subjectivity involved in interpreting the results of the quantitative tests. If asked to submit to a Substance Abuse Evaluation, defense counsel may limit a parent’s exposure by implementing these practice pointers: 1. Ask that the evaluation not be used in the Fact Finding hearing. Alcohol or drug addition is not, per se, child abuse. Div. of Youth and Fam. Svcs. v. V.T., 423 N.J.Super. 320 (App.Div.2011). Thus, the existence of an addiction is arguably not probative of whether or not such condition harmed a child on a specific occasion. 2. If the parent submits to evaluation and subsequently engages in treatment, that treatment should not be used in the Fact Finding hearing as evidence that an addiction existed. Evidence in Fact Finding hearings must be “competent, material and relevant”. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(c). That means, the Rules of Evidence apply. N.J.R.E. 407 prohibits the use of corrective action to prove the condition corrected. “[E]vidence of remedial measures is excluded not because it lacks relevancy, but because admission of said testimony might discourage corrective action and induce perpetuation of the damage and condition that gave rise to the lawsuit.” Hansson v. Catalytic Constr. Co., 43 N.J.Super. at 29. That principle applies equally in child welfare cases, as it does in negligence cases. 3. Stipulating to the existence...

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