When a parent is accused of abuse or neglect, or faces the most severe life consequence of termination of parental rights, a lawyer with expertise in the field of child welfare law is vital to parent defense. Many lawyers advertise that they are capable of adeptly handling a DYFS matter. Some are correct. Unfortunately, many more are not.
DYFS litigation is imbued with complexities that transcend basic family law. This area of litigation requires an intimate familiarity with agency law and procedure, Superior Court law and procedure, and the intersection of the two. It requires an understanding of social work, psychology, psychiatry, mental health generally and medical conditions. It requires an understanding of the Rules of Court and Rules of Evidence, many of which differ from those applicable to matrimonial and family law. It requires an intimate familiarity with two key statutes defining abuse, neglect and parental unfitness, and their subparts. Few attorneys have this familiarity.
Many parents seek out an attorney who is skilled in the field of family law. One way of determining if a practitioner is skilled in family law is by seeking those who have been Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. While these practitioners are deemed competent in the field of family law, they are not necessarily so in the field of Child welfare law. To become certified, one must pass an examination created by the Board on Attorney Certification. This examination does not include any material covering child welfare law topics.
Choosing an attorney is an important step in the reunification and sustenance of families involved in the child welfare system. Parents should be careful not to choose a lawyer simply because they are a skilled family law practitioner or, even worse, simply because they advertise that they are a “DYFS Lawyer“.
If a parent is seeking representation by an attorney with the skills, reputation and knowledge needed to help adeptly navigate the child welfare system, please contact Allison C. Williams, Esq. for a consultation.