Should You Know About Child Welfare Litigation Strategies

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It’s easy to feel as if the whole system is against you when you are fighting for your child in court.

The child welfare system is there to protect your child’s safety and well-being, not just to limit your parental rights. But when that system decides you put your child’s safety at risk, it can turn against you. As a vehement defender of parents’ rights in child welfare cases, I can tell you to not give up just yet. Here are some ways you can defend your rights while in litigation.

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a right to counsel during the child welfare litigation process. I highly recommend you at least speak with a New Jersey child welfare attorney about your case. Even a simple consultation can help, but you can ensure your rights will be defended if an attorney helps you with your case. Remember that court appointed attorneys often have severe caseloads and may not be able to give your case the attention it deserves. If you decide to use a court-appointed lawyer it is still a sound decision to obtain a consultation with a specialized DYFS attorney. This attorney can help you understand what you should expect from your court appointed lawyer and what is reasonable to expect from them. They can also help you devise a strategy that you can then discuss with your court appointed lawyer. Many specialized DYFS attorneys offer initial consultations from which you can gather information on how to proceed with your case to the next step.

Second, the court cannot take your child away from you or terminate your parental rights without having good cause. The DCP&P will conduct an investigation to gather evidence to submit to the court. You have a right to provide testimony and evidence, too. Take full advantage of this right! You should have an attorney help you do this, but, whatever you do, don’t pass up this opportunity to provide important information.

Third, cooperate when it is reasonable. Comply with any requests the DCP&P makes during the investigation such as developing a safety plan. Work with your caseworkers to create a visitation plan so you can stay involved in your child’s life. Complete all court-ordered steps such as counseling or a substance abuse evaluation. The DCP&P may also ask you to take advantage of certain services. If you disagree with any of these requests, speak with an attorney.

Knowing and understanding your rights and responsibilities is the best tip I can give you for fighting for your child in court. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the child welfare case process in its entirety. You are dealing with both the DCP&P caseworkers and the court all while trying to remain an involved parent while your child is in foster placement. Speak with an attorney about your case if you have questions about your rights or responsibilities.