Find out if Your Name is on the Child Abuse Registry


Parents have recently inquired of me as to how they can find out if your name is on the child abuse registry. The registry is maintained by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). These agency records are confidential pursuant to statute. See, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10a. However, in certain limited circumstances, one may find out information that is otherwise confidential per statute.

If a parent or guardian is involved in a division matter, confidential information may be released to the extent necessary to help negotiate a case plan or discuss services for a family. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10a(b)(19).

If the matter is in active litigation, the parent’s attorney may have access to the confidential information. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10a(b)(17).

Finally, if the information is sought while no litigation is pending by the division, but other litigation exists or is contemplated, the parent may seek a court order to compel the release of the information. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10a(b)(6)
.
If a parent is listed on the registry, they are entitled to appeal this administrative finding. The division will notify the parent in writing of the administrative right to appeal, which must be taken within 20 days of receiving written notification by the agency of its finding. For this reason, the division typically will advise the parent of the existence of a substantiated finding, even if the written notification has been sent to the parent. If the parent has not timely appealed, the division may choose to allow an administrative right to appeal; however, if not, the parent’s only recourse is to proceed to the Appellate Division to compel the agency to allow an administrative appeal.

For more information about gaining access to the registry and other confidential information, please contact our office and schedule a consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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 not accuse the adverse party of abuse or neglect does not negate its existence.

In sum, do not assume that a finding by DCPP ends the custody case. Many times, it is merely an unfortunate blip on the radar screen that must be explained through custody and parenting time evaluations, custody mediation and trial.

For more information, please feel free to contact us and schedule a consultation.