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.

Happy Thanksgiving to the Families of New Jersey!


This time of year is fraught with sadness for so many people – particularly those children and families that are kept from their loved ones due to allegations of abuse or neglect. When abuse has been substantiated, families are kept apart to ensure safety of children. However, when abuse is only suspected, the separation of children from their families is all the more troubling and tragic.

The Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), n/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“DCPP”) – like many other partiers involved in family court litigation – is usually taxed with requests for holiday parenting time at this time of the year. Last minute requests for increased parenting time, approval of additional supervisors, overnight access to allow all family members to attend gatherings out of state, present in droves.

To increase the likelihood that your family may enjoy time together at the holidays, during the pendency of a DYFS/DCPP matter, here are a few suggestions:

1. Aim to address holiday parenting time requests at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance of the holiday.

2. Identify as many family members and friends to the agency that may be evaluated and approved to supervise parenting time. A person who may be ineligible for placement (e.g., because of inadequate shelter) may be approved to serve as a supervisor at a holiday party.

3. Remember that not every parent requires supervision. The Division almost universally requests supervised parenting time for parents accused of any form of abuse or neglect. However, the agency and the court must identify a basis for supervision, and absent same, visitation is to be unsupervised.

If the allegation is medical neglect of a child, what risk can be identified from the alleged neglectful parent spending time in the presence of the child at a holiday event, when someone else in the family would be responsible for the child’s medical needs if any? Do not be afraid to make the argument.

4. Supervised overnight parenting time is not impossible to accomplish while ensuring safety for the child. If the accused parent has a substance abuse problem, how likely is it that the parent will abstain from substances while supervised until the child’s bedtime, but then, while the child is asleep, abuse substances and place the child at risk? Not very.

5. Expansion of parenting time at the holidays is very common. Seek the support of agencies that will supervise parenting time for a fee. These agencies may not be available on the holiday, but may be available a day or two afterward.

Celebration can occur at any time. Arrange supervised visits for the day before or after the holiday. Many agencies will supervise visitation off site, traveling with the parent to public places for parenting time.

These tips are not designed to constitute legal advice. For information about how you and your family can be together for holiday parenting time while your DYFS case is ongoing, please contact Allison C. Williams, Esq. and schedule a consultation.