DeMystifying the Children in Court (CIC) Docket


On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, NewJerseyDYFSdefense founder, Allison C. Williams, Esq., will be presenting on a panel discussing defense of parents in child welfare (i.e., DYFS/DCPP) matters. The educational program for judges and attorneys will be presented to the Union County Bar Association (UCBA) immediately preceding the Mccloud Awards Dinner. Some of the topics will include:

– Should parents voluntarily speak to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) regarding allegations of child abuse;

– How to gain access to DCPP records when no complaint has been filed by the agency;

– How to litigate a custody case and a DCPP case at the same time;

– How to secure the best parenting time arrangement during a DCPP case while a criminal investigation is ongoing and/or a criminal charge has been filed;

– When to consult DCPP counsel during a matrimonial case, when to refer it out and when to handle it behind the scenes;

– How to gain a strategic advantage over the agency while “call operating” with an investigation; and

– Much, much more!

The panel will include Superior Court Judge Camille Kenny, Deputy Attorney General Christian Arnold and law guardian in Patricia Vogler. The event will take place at LaFaire restaurant in Mountainside, New Jersey, starting at 4:30 PM.

This event further confirms that Ms. Williams is the foremost authority on parental defense in child welfare cases in the State of New Jersey.

If you or someone you know is involved with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS), and you may need assistance, please contact us at Paragano and Williams, LLC.

When are DYFS services considered “reasonable”?


“Reasonableness” is imbued in our child protection laws. The agency must exercise “reasonable” efforts to avoid out of home placement. If the child is removed, the agency must provide “reasonable” services to achieve the goal of reunification. The “reasonableness” of those services is a condition precedent to termination of parental rights.

And yet, New Jersey case law is bereft of any true explication of what is considered “reasonable” for services rendered in the name of child protection. For instance, is your run-of-the-mill parenting class a “reasonable” service for the parent of a mentally disturbed, highly medicated “toxic terror” of a child with severe behavioral problems? Is “counseling” a “reasonable” service to address deep-seated psychological issues dating back to childhood, when such counseling is offered by an LCSW and not a psychologist?

And what about court-ordered services? If the division offers some services, but fails to comply with a court order providing for other services, can the totality of services rendered be deemed “reasonable”? And what about when mental health professionals that provide the court-ordered services sought by the division come up with the wrong diagnosis? New Jersey case law does not require the division to succeed in remedying the problems in a family with the services offered; however, in evaluating the “reasonableness” of those services, can a court legitimately find that a service that led a parent down the wrong path by mis-diagnosing a mental health disorder and requiring compliance with treatment of the wrong problem was, in fact, “reasonable” simply because it was sought and paid for by DYFS?

All too often, defense attorneys fail to make a probing inquiry into the appropriateness of the services sought by the division. Earlier this year, the Appellate Division decided T.S., which cautioned trial courts against surreptitiously ordering the “usual services” simply because they are the services usually ordered. Inherent in that Appellate Division ruling is an acknowledgment that over-servicing a family is not reasonable.

But aside from the sheer volume of the repetitive services offered in these cases, the issue of “reasonableness” remains an underutilized area of parental defense in these cases. When addressing the many requests made of parents in these cases, defense counsel should be ever mindful of the common sense, or lack thereof, of what is being requested.

Simply put, when baby has a wet diaper, the solution is not to give her a bottle. Similarly, when dad has an alcohol problem, the solution is not to stick him in a parenting class.

If the question being asked is, “Which came first, the chicken or the baseball,” perhaps we should be questioning the “reasonableness” of the question (i.e., the Division’s services), and not the “reasonableness” of the parent’s inability to answer a ridiculous question.