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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, we’d like to hear your message!
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abuse

What Is the Difference Between Abuse and Neglect?

What Is the Difference Between Abuse and Neglect?

Mistreating Children   Child abuse and child neglect both threaten the health, safety, and development of a child, and both can result in a child welfare case. It is important to understand the differences between child abuse and child neglect. State agencies need to know specifically how the child was mistreated to be able to put in place the right protections following an investigation. Child abuse and child neglect are both detrimental to a child but are caused by different actions and behaviors.   Child Abuse   Child abuse is defined as a parent or caregiver harming a child or putting a child at risk of harm. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual in nature. Any of these types of abuse cause psychological harm to a child. Examples of abuse include inflicting physical injury on a child, involving a child in a sexual act, or emotionally abusing a child. Abuse can happen in one incident or be the result of a pattern of ongoing acts and behaviors from the caregiver. Signs of child abuse can include bruises and other injuries, a child’s inappropriate knowledge about sexual behavior, or withdrawal from social interaction.   Child Neglect   Child neglect, while equally harmful to a child, differs from child abuse in that it is typically caused by a lack of action on the part of the caregiver. Neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide proper care for a child. Proper care includes providing adequate shelter, clothing, food, medical care, supervision, and education. Neglect is often a result of ongoing mistreatment but can also occur from one unattended instance. Signs of neglect include poor hygiene, malnutrition, unattended to medical problems, or fatigue. Understanding the differences between the two is important to be able to properly investigate a case and effectively protect a child from the mistreatment. Consult with an experienced New Jersey child welfare attorney if you have questions about child abuse or child neglect. These are serious concerns for any parent or caretaker, and it is important to understand your rights with regard to the safety of your child. An attorney can advise you of those rights and help you take the right steps to ensure your child is in safe hands.   Do you have questions about protecting your child’s best interests? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help you and your family obtain a...

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The Importance of Appealing a DYFS/DCPP Substantiation of Abuse/Neglect

If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency substantiates an allegation of child abuse or neglect, the perpetrator’s name is listed on the Child Abuse Central Registry. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.11. This is a confidential list that is maintained by the Department of Children and Families. Only a limited number of agencies have a statutory right to access the Registry, including licensed daycare providers, adoptive agencies and residential elder care facilities. For all others, a request must be made in writing to the Division to release the information, and failing same, court order must be sought. School districts employing teachers are not, by statute, entitled to check the Registry. However, nothing in the law prevents an employer (including a school district) from requesting an applicant’s consent to authorize the Division to release this information for purposes of evaluating her employability. Further, nothing in the law protects an applicant from an employer’s choice to draw an adverse inference from an applicant’s failure or refusal to release the information. So, if a person is listed on the Registry, they remain in jeopardy of having an employer-requested background check that could preclude him from employment. If you receive a letter advising that the Division had substantiated an allegation of abuse or neglect, you should appeal. Instructions will be provided in the letter, advising where to send the request and what information is required. An administrative appeal occurs in the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The Rules of Evidence do not apply. The procedure is trial-like, but the cases are tried “de novo”. Rather, the a question for the Administrative Law Judge is whether the agency’s decision is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Because of these differences between Superior Court litigation and administrative practice, it is imperative that an accused parent/caregiver select an attorney that is skilled in handling these matters. If you or someone you know has been substantiated for abuse or neglect and desire to appeal, please contact The Williams Law Group, LLC to schedule a consultation....

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DCPP Segway into Custody Litigation

In New Jersey, as in most jurisdictions, the court must consider whether or not a child would be subjected to abuse or neglect in the care of any parent seeking legal and physical custody of the child. Consequently, the outcome of an abuse or neglect case brought by DCPP can be very significant for custody litigation. When a parent has been found by the agency or a court to have abused or neglected child, however, that finding is not dispositive of the custody issue. Here are a few points to consider when contesting custody, after a finding of abuse or neglect has been made: 1. An agency finding without court intervention can, and often does, indicate an isolated incident that is of no further concern to the agency. Pursue an administrative appeal, if for no other reason than to alert the custody court that you contest the agency finding. 2. The court finding often occurs long after the problem has been remediated. Many times an allegation of abuse and neglect does not reach a fact-finding stage for many months, even a year, into the case. By that time, services have been offered to the family and the problem has resolved. 3. If abuse or neglect allegations arise during the pendency of a custody case, parents’ financial resources often limit them to litigate in only one forum. The parent may stipulate in order to get rid of the agency case and invest resources in the custody case. Further, the agency is often more willing to be lax in its involvement with the family if the parent stipulates to expedite the process. However distasteful that may be, the reality should be addressed with the custody court so as not to prejudice a litigant seeking custody. 4. The broad, amorphus definition of neglect often makes less-than-perfect parental behavior a violation of law. Many times, parents can persuade the agency to change its finding if the facts of a contentious divorce are fleshed out in a custody case while the abuse and neglect case is ongoing. 5. Sometimes, both parents have engaged in some form of abuse and neglect; however, only one parent is accused and has a finding made against him. That does not prevent the other parent from filing his own Title 9 complaint or raising allegations of abuse or neglect in the custody case. The fact that the agency did...

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Impact upon Siblings of False Child Sexual Abuse Allegations

Thomas Kennedy, a father wrongfully accused of raping his then 11 year old daughter, Cassandra, was convicted but eventually freed when the child came forward with the truth. Cassandra’s sister appeared with Thomas and Cassandra to discuss the implications for this family trauma on the Katie Couric show. The siblings often suffer as a result of the child sexual abuse disclosure – whether it is truthful or not. The sibling is often placed in therapy to deal with the loss of the accused parent and to help support the victim child. But what of those cases when the accused parent is not guilty? In those circumstances where therapy is required for the sibling who does not believe the abuse, the forcing of therapy can be harm in and of itself. No matter how well-intentioned the professionals involved, the sibling’s resistance to believing that abuse occurred often prolongs the therapy required of them. These difficult issues often plague the child welfare system. Therapeutic intervention occurs within the context of litigation. If you or someone you know requires help with these issues in child welfare litigation, please contact us at...

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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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