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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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abuse

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...

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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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Non-Offending Parents in Sex Abuse Cases

NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com received an inquiry regarding the Division’s hostility toward non-offending parents in sexual abuse cases. Allison C. Williams, Esq. responded to this inquiry, and since then, we have received very favorable responses to that Reply in Comments. For that reason, we have decided to republish that post here. Counsel is involved in a matter involving alleged sexual abuse by the Father wherein the Mother believes in his innocence in a northern county. She represents the non-offending parent who firmly believes her husband’s innocence. The following suggestions are made for such circumstances: 1. The non-offending parent should compile a list of reasons why s/he believes his/her spouse. The reasons should focus upon the parent-child relationship with the non-offending spouse — not the spousal relationship. Focusing on the latter will likely draw complaint that the non-offending parent prioritizes the spouse over the child. 2. The psychological community acknowledges that a parent can disbelieve that abuse has occurred, and yet, still be supportive of the child who believes she has been abused. Cite to this research every time the matter is listed in court. Such information from Learned Treatises offers material and relevant evidence to the court for dispositional purposes. 3. Minimize the public appearance of support got the alleged offending parent by the non-offending parent. The image of wife supporting husband contradicts the position that wife supports his accuser (i.e.., the child) – no matter what the psychological community has to say about the two roles being compatible. 4. Obtain private therapy for the non-offending parent. Do NOT allow the Division access to this professional unless and until there is a finding, and only then, after the consequences of such finding have been addressed in court. Keep that safe space for the non-offending parent to express fear, concern, anxiety and yes, even doubt, without fear of jeopardizing the accused parent’s defense, the child’s sense of security or the marital relationship. These tips are not intended to constitute legal advice. If you would like to discuss your matter further, please contact me at our office and schedule a consultation with Allison C. Williams,...

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