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Ask The Attorney: My Neighbor Falsely Reported Me to DYFS. What can I do?

What should you do if Division of Youth & Family Services unexpectedly shows up at your door?

Dear Ask the Attorney:

My neighbor and I have a hate-hate relationship.  Recently, in retaliation for complaining to the town about garbage in their front yard, my neighbor called up DYFS and reported that I was abusing my children.  It is not true!  I love my children and would never harm them, but DYFS showed up at my house and are now planning to investigate.  Can they do this?  What do I do?

Scared Mom

Our guest blogger today is Michael R. Ascher. Esq. Mr. Ascher is a partner in the firm and is engaged in a litigation practice handling both criminal and complex civil matters. His practice includes all categories of criminal cases including drunk driving defense, sex offenses, drug and white collar crimes, computer crime, conspiracy, fraud & theft cases and matters involving the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).

Dear S.M.,

Under the law, the Division of Youth and Family Services, now known as the Division of Child Placement and Permanency has a statutory obligation to investigate all referrals concerning either child abuse or neglect.  These investigations must be begun immediately upon receipt of the referral.  Referrals can be made anonymously and without any corroborating information.  The Division will send out an investigating officer to interview you and your children.  Although you have a right to refuse the Division access, it can go to court and obtain an Order for Investigation which would permit them to interview both you and your children.  Often times, the Division will simply show up at a child’s school to interview the children without your prior knowledge or consent.  When confronted with a DYFS investigation, it is vitally important to obtain advice from an attorney who has experience with the Division.  Parents do have rights and should enforce them. 

DYFS referrals can turn into criminal investigations also.  Under the statute, the Division and county prosecutors are required to exchange information where there are allegations of either abuse or neglect.  Therefore, it is vitally important that you seek advice of an attorney.  An experienced DYFS attorney would insist upon being present during any interview of you.  An attorney’s presence is vital to protect your rights in any DYFS proceeding or a resulting criminal prosecution.  If the Division feels that your children are in imminent danger of harm or the risk of harm, they can initiate a removal.  This would permit them to actually remove your children without a court order. 

Even though you know that you have neither abused nor neglected your children, it is important that you do not confront any Division workers on your own.  During the investigatory stage, parents are at a disadvantage since they do not know the full extent of the allegations made against them.  The Division does not have to disclose all of the allegations that have been made.  Often times, Division workers will threaten to remove your children in an effort to have you sign a “safety plan” which could adversely impact your rights as a parent.  Before agreeing to any DYFS intervention or safety plan, you should seek the advice of an attorney to guide you through the difficult procedure confronting you. 

It is important that you understand that you have significant rights that you should seek to enforce.  After the Division has made its investigation, they will “substantiate” allegations of abuse or neglect, or will deem it “unfounded”.  If the allegations are substantiated, your name will be placed in a central registry.  However, you would have the right to appeal from that substantiated finding.  An unfounded finding would result in no further action, but the referral would remain in the Division’s file for three years. Substantiation may result in the Division taking court action against you.           

Being placed in a central registry may bar you from some types of employment, from becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in the future.  As you can see, you have rights following a DYFS investigation and the following conclusion if it is found to be substantiated.  During the entire process, you should seek advice of an experienced DYFS lawyer to assist you during this incredibly emotional time. 

“Ask the Attorney” is a blog in which answers to your legal questions submitted to asktheattorney@einhornharris.com may be answer.  The answers to the questions are for informational purposes only and are not to be construed as legal advice or the creation of an attorney–client relationship.  The facts of each case are different and you should therefore seek competent legal representation. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

iam655321sir January 31, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Lt. Dan, Assuming you are in Public Law Enforcement, you took an oath to defend and protect the US and NJ Constitution to the very best of your ability. Stating in your words “DYFS concerns trump everything, “ is so far from defending and protecting the US and NJ Constitution you are way out of bounds, and frankly you should not be allowed to wear a badge
Kathy Dumonde March 18, 2013 at 08:45 PM
If you have an unreasonable neighbor and suspect something illegitimate could happen because they decide to settle their petty differences by abusing the law, get a tape and video camera on standby. The minute anyone shows up knocking on your door, start your video camera and advise them they are being recorded. If you are alone and afraid, do not let them in. At this point you don't know who they are. Want to get raped or beaten by your neighbors sick friend? Open the door to them. No, you tell them through the door that they will have to return with a warrant or you call the police to say someone is knocking on your door late at night to harass you, then you will have backup. Any abuse of the law will be documented. When Americans learn and fight for their rights and stop living in fear of the sick people who abuse the law then things may get done properly. Do not live your life in fear of your children being taken. It may aggravate your days but you damn well better be strong and fight or the petty sickos win. You who suggest moving and 'doormat' compliance are the sand in the eye of the justice system and liberty.
LilahLove June 08, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Even when a parent is 100% innocent DYFS does not simply "go away". Hiring a lawyer the minute they show up at your door is the smartest thing to do. So what if it costs tons of money.....your children arent worth it??? No matter if a case is unfounded or substantiated , these people make money off of you and your children , they ate not simply going away. Innocent or not DYFS is not going anywhere anytime soon....so hire a lawyer asap and get them the hell out of your life. Id pay infinite amounts of money to protect my child. That was some worthless advice. And for the record....I am not a lawyer.
Roger June 14, 2013 at 12:01 AM
The fact is that DYFS loves to wreck families. I know from numerous encounters that they are not there to clear you. They are there to screw you over. Get a lawyer!
unkown111 June 18, 2013 at 01:35 AM
A freind is involved in a DYFS case where it ws unfounded. they still recommed parenting and individual therapy to them. they are complying with the parenting but do not wish to attend therapy. The social worker advised them that they may have to take them to court if they do not attend therapy. If the case is unfound, what is the likelyhood of their case going to court? after all its just a recemmondation.

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