Section 5: Table of Contents
Many parents feel power less and frightened when DYFS files a court action against them. Try not to let your feelings keep you from doing what you need to do to keep your child with you or to get your child back. Here are some suggestions to help you focus on the things you can do to help your self:
Get a lawyer and work with your lawyer
Get a lawyer as soon as possible and keep in touch with him or her. Al ways make sure your lawyer knows how to reach you. When your lawyer leaves you a message, respond as soon as possible. Keep your lawyer up to date on your situation.
Be honest with your lawyer. Tell him or her everything you know that might be important in your case. Give your lawyer copies of all of the papers you have that concern your case. Ask your lawyer to ex plain anything that goes on in your case that you do not understand. Never sign any thing related to your case without consulting your lawy
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Begin services right away
Unless you have a strong belief that counseling, parenting classes, and other services DYFS recommends are a bad idea for you, you should begin those services as soon as possible. Ask for other services you believe will be helpful. Letters and reports from therapists that say good things about you will help you get your child back. Proof that you have at tended and completed parenting classes or other training should also help.
Attend all hearings and appointments
Always be present and on time for court, evaluations, therapy, and other appointments related to this case. If possible, let your employer, teachers, and/or treatment program staff know that you are involved in an important court case, and try to arrange your schedule so that you can attend all scheduled appointments and court dates. If you do miss court or an evaluation you have been ordered to attend, contact your lawyer right away.
Remember that the judge can enter a de fault against you be cause of your failure to appear in court, and you could lose your chance to present your defense at trial. If you have a good reason for not appearing, your lawyer might be able to undo the default.
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Attend all visits with your child
Visits are important for your child and will help you and your child maintain your relation ship. Never miss your scheduled visits with your child, and remember to confirm them in advance if you are required to do so.
Behave in a calm, polite way
How you act while your case is going on is important. The judge, DYFS workers, the law guardian, therapists, court staff, CASA volunteers, and others are forming opinions of you that will affect the decisions in your case. Be cooperative and respectful. Otherwise, you may hurt your chances of get ting your child back.
Show that you can pro vide a safe, stable home for your child
Do the best you can to show that you can meet your child’s need for safety and stability. Employment and acceptable housing are signs of stability. So is a good support system, a network of reliable, stable friends and relatives you can call on when you need help.
Avoid relation ships with people who are or have been involved with crime, child abuse, substance abuse, or any kind of violence.
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Advocate for your child
If you are concerned that your child is being mistreated in his or her out-of-home placement, or that your child needs services or other help he or she is not get ting, discuss this with your lawyer. You or your lawyer will need to ex press your concerns to DYFS. If you are not satisfied with DYFS’ response, talk to your lawyer about whether you should express your concerns to the law guardian, the CASA volunteer, if there is one, and the judge.
Keep up with every thing that is going on
Dealing with every thing that happens when DYFS brings an action for child abuse or neglect against you is very hard and time-consuming. However, you must attend to everything. Don’t let anything related to this DYFS case fall through the cracks.
- Get your side of the story and your suggestions before the judge, as well as be fore the Child Placement Re view Board.
- Work to stabilize your life and solve any problems you have. Visit and communicate with your child as much as possible.
- If you are in formed that DYFS has made an administrative substantiation of abuse or neglect against you and you wish to contest it, respond by the dead line.
- Attend any child support hearings that involve you.
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Copyright © 2011 Legal Services of New Jersey
This information last reviewed 10/28/11