Like us on Facebook




As attorneys, our main focus is on our client's well being. We fight aggressively to protect you and your loved ones.




For more information, call us at (908) 810-1083 or complete our online contact form.



Connect with us on LinkedIn



When you choose us, you work directly with our seasoned attorneys. We will get to know you so we can recognize your unique needs and strive to meet them.




For more information, call us at (908) 810-1083 or complete our online contact form.



Follow us on Twitter



We strive to protect what is most important to you; utilizing our broad experiences and talent in negotiation, advocacy, and litigation.




For more information, call us at (908) 810-1083 or complete our online contact form.



Follow us on Google Plus



Our law firm will provide you with the information you need to understand your options and make the choices that are right for you and your family.




For more information, call us at (908) 810-1083 or complete our online contact form.



Watch us on YouTube



Legal cases can be emotionally and financially draining. From the very start, we will work diligently to find avenues to resolve your case as efficiently and effectively as possible.




For more information, call us at (908) 810-1083 or complete our online contact form.

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!
Send

                                            avvo

child welfare

Who Causes the Harm?

In protracted DCPP litigation, there are often many twists and turns in the cases. Sometimes, the “non-offending parent” becomes the target of an investigation by the agency. This is common in cases where one parent is substantiated for abuse and the other parent is subsequently substantiated for “failure to protect” the children from the alleged abusive parent. If children are in the custody of the alleged non-protective parent, any distress by the children is typically attributed to that parent. But is that truly the case? Is it not harm in and of itself to have the child welfare agency and its many, many individuals (caseworkers, investigators, supervisors and liaisons), the law guardian’s office (with its many investigators and attorneys), parents attorneys and a judge or two, involved in the life of a child? If the child is struggling with the loss of one parent who is barred from access due to court orders in DCPP Court, does that parental absence not cause immediate harm and trauma to the child? Especially when the child knows the parent has not died but is simply not authorized by the court to see them? And can we place upon the “non-offending” parent the burden of the children’s emotional stability, when it is the very existence of the “helpers” of the child welfare system that is increasing if not causing the distress in the child? In my experience, these thorny issues are too amorphous for this to be determined with any degree of psychological certainty. Expert reports are obtained and testimony is provided, which amounts to little more than the “gut reaction” of the expert. Absent a smoking gun such as a child confessing that the “non-offending” parent is berating the child about his/her offending parent, the child’s emotional response are often the product of all that plagues him/her. Sadly, those involved in the child welfare system often fall into one of two camps – i.e., the child-saver camp and the parent-defender can. Those in the former category would be inclined to believe that child distress is a product of nonsupport by the “non-offending” parent. Those in the latter category are more inclined to believe that the child’s distress is a product of the enormous, oppressive invasion of the child’s life by the child welfare system. Whichever view is adopted, the opinions on this topic are too significant to be decided by “gut reactions”....

Read More

Use of Child Interviews in DCPP Cases

In Family Court, children are often witnesses to matters before the Court.  Children may witness domestic violence between their parents.  They may provide exculpatory information to refute allegations of adultery or neglect.  In such cases, trial Courts usually shy away from placing children on the witness stand in open Court and instead conduct child interviews in the judge’s chambers, where the child’s testimony is critical.  The prevailing view is that method of information testing protects children. In cases brought by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly DYFS), the child is the subject of the action.  The child is person alleged to be in need of protection. So, courts go above and beyond — not only to ensure the child is subjected to in-court testimony, but also to avoid any child testimony, including child interviews.  In DCPP cases, children’s hearsay statements of abuse may be admitted into evidence; however, no such statement is sufficient to make a finding of abuse absent corroboration. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(a)(4).  Despite this broad exception to the hearsay rule, the Court must still find “credible, corroborative evidence” as a precondition to admissibility of the statement.  New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. L.A., 357 N.J.Super. 155, 167 (App.Div.2003). Anecdotal experience finds that judges in DCPP matters often prefer to admit the child’s statements of abuse in lieu of live testimony.  But what happens when there is no corroboration for the child’s statements, rendering them inadmissible?  The Division may still choose to proceed, in which case the child’s testimony is required.  Trial judges, many of whom were litigators before they were elevated to the bench, are often adept at handling direct examination. But what about cross examination?  What happens when defense counsel desires to confront a child witness with inconsistent statements?  What happens if the trial judge does not “confront” the child, but rather, gingerly explores the topic with the child?  Is not cross examination the best device we have in an adversarial system for unearthing the truth?  What becomes of that adversarial system when a trial judge refuses to become adversarial with a witness, and hence, defense counsel is deprived of the most effective means of challenging the child’s statements? What about the element of surprise?  With a witness on the witness stand, defense counsel can confront the witness with pictures, recordings, written statements – anything likely to call into question the witness’s credibility.  A...

Read More

Recording of DYFS Investigation Interviews

A number of parents have contacted me to seek guidance on how to handle child welfare investigations. A common query is whether or not it is permissible to record an interview with the investigator from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The short answer is yes, child welfare investigations may be tape-recorded. However, the better question is whether or not the investigator will allow such recording. So long as the tape recording is of a conversation to which the parent is a party, the recording is authorized and is not a violation of either of the New Jersey Wiretap Act or considered a tortious invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, the vast majority of division investigators will outright refuse a request to tape-record their conversations with the parent. This, of course, begs the question: If you are going to perform your job as required by law, why would you oppose the recording of your interview with the accused parent? Is it because you cannot manipulate the responses provided by the parent if those responses are captured on tape recording? Perhaps it is because you fear a lack of perfection in performing your job duties, which may be brought to the attention of your supervisor. In fairness to the workers, most people would feel some degree of anxiety if the routine performance of their job duties was captured on a recording device. Nevertheless, not only should workers consent to tape-recording of interviews, but they should encourage them. The information gathered by a Division investigator is not dispositive of the outcome of the child welfare investigation… but, it greatly influences the outcome. The information collected is to be provided to the agency supervisor, and ultimately, a determination will be made as to whether a child is at risk of harm, has been harmed and/or is the subject of abuse or neglect by the parent. However, because caselaw imbues the Division with a “high degree of reliability” in its collection of information that is documented in agency records, information later admitted into evidence in court proceedings summarily and with little personal knowledge by the testifying worker, it is imperative that the information collected be accurate. The high caseloads of division investigators, the speed with which referrals must be investigated, the timing of presentment to the parent for their interview, the stress...

Read More

Happy New Year from NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com!

As we say goodbye to 2012, we here at New Jersey DYFS Defense want to take some time to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. In April 2010, NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com was launched by our founder, Allison C. Williams, Esq. Ms. Williams created this site to serve as a portal of information for attorneys who represent parents in child welfare matters involving the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The site became an invaluable resource for the bar, housing periodicals and scholarly articles published by Ms. Williams over the years. Then in 2011, Ms. Williams began to see a need to expand the reach of our site. Members of the public sought legal advice, information and guidance on how to defend against actions brought by the State, as well as how to handle agency investigations, negotiate case plan and navigate services – either prior to, during or after litigation. As more and more individuals sought guidance, Ms. Williams began to shift her focus from making the site’s invaluable information accessible, to making herself available for consultation and representation. Now, in 2012, NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com has become an entity unto itself. Ms. Williams posts content about this obscure and complicated area of law including social commentary, legal analysis and practice pointers not designed to serve as legal advice. As a result, NewJerseyDYFSdefense boasted record volume, averaging HUNDREDS of site hits per day. Ms. Williams’ career has blossomed. In 2012, she became the first African American attorney to gain Fellowship in the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She was appointed to a New Jersey Supreme Court Committee – the Board on Attorney Certification Matrimonial Committee. Ms. Williams also took the helm as the Chair of the Certified Attorneys Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. These accomplishments, while impressive, have meant the most to Ms. Williams in one key area of her practice — i.e., her ability to marshal these efforts to continue to help families embroiled in litigation against the State of New Jersey. As a thought leader in this area of the law, NewJerseyDYFSdefense.com has been cited by the media in evaluating the defense position in matters before the New Jersey Supreme Court. And, most recently, Ms. Williams was recognized as a thought leader when invited to appear on the...

Read More

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...

Read More