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, Esq.

Evidence in DYFS cases to be discussed in a panel discussion


On Monday, August 13, 2012, Allison C. Williams will be presenting for the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) in the preeminent Evidence for Family Lawyers CLE. This program is designed to provide hours of rich information about the intricacies of the Rules of Evidence in the Family Part.

Of critical importance is ICLE’s willingness to include topics related to DYFS (n/k/a DCPP) cases – a progressive move demonstrating ICLE’s continuing responsiveness to the needs of the legal community.

And, further, this is a real testament to Allison C. Williams’ fervent efforts to educate the bench, bar and society at large about litigation within the child welfare system in New Jersey.

DYFS Substantiations of Child Abuse – The Role of Corroboration


In DYFS v. T.L. A-0506-11T2, the Appellate Division entered several rulings about corroboration of children’s statements of prior abuse. The Court noted that N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(a)(4) exists to alleviate the necessity of having children unnecessarily relive unpleasant experiences by being required to testify when other reliable evidence will suffice to prove the truth of the matter.  One such piece of “reliable evidence” is the Admission of the parent. 

But interestingly, the Court also held that prior statements of “the child” need not be limited to “the child” at issue in the litigation.  Prior statements of non-subject children can also be admitted.  This ruling seems at variance with the plain language of the statute, which references “the” child – not “a” child.  However, the statute is designed to prevent abuse victims from testifying.  In this case, all children at issue – even those who were not subject to the action – were victimized by the conduct about which statements were given.  Hence, the result achieved by the ruling is consonant with the purpose of the statute.

But what if the non-subject children could only speak to the alleged victimization of “the child” at issue in the case?  In this scenario, I am not so sure that the Court’s ruling in T.L. would stand.  Future published appellate cases may give some guidance on this issue, as there is none at present.