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Family and Relationships

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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) > Termination of Parental Rights: A Handbook for Parents

L. How Can You Make the Best Use of Your Lawyer?


Your relationship with your lawyer is very important. Following is a list of things you can do to make the relationship work to your advantage:

  • Make sure you show your lawyer all of the papers you have, including all psychological or medical reports and all court papers relating to this case and all past cases concerning you and your child.
  • Go over the complaint filed against you with your lawyer. Let your lawyer know whether each statement is true or false. Give your lawyer a complete explanation of everything that has happened; complete information about your current situation; and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any friends or relatives who may be of help.
  • Be honest. Remember that your lawyer can advise and represent you best when he or she knows all of the facts. If you tell your lawyer something you do not want the court or DYFS to know, make sure the lawyer knows that you do not want that information disclosed. Your lawyer cannot tell anyone things that you want kept confidential, unless the information reveals that a crime will be committed or that a child has been abused.
  • Always make sure that your lawyer knows where to reach you, and always respond as soon as possible when your lawyer tries to contact you. Even if your lawyer does not call you, check with him or her every other week about your case.
  • Make copies of all letters or other papers you give to DYFS, and be sure to give a copy of each to your lawyer. Starting now, make a list of every phone call and meeting you have with DYFS. Write down what was said and what happened. In addition, write down the date and time whenever you try to reach your DYFS worker but are unable to contact him or her. Leave recorded messages when you cannot reach DYFS workers, evaluators, therapists, or other people involved in your case.
  • Get a calendar and keep track of all court and visitation dates and all evaluation, counseling, and therapy appointments that are scheduled for you by your lawyer, DYFS, or the court. If you are required to call ahead to confirm your visits with your child in advance, write that down in your calendar, too.
  • Ask your lawyer to explain anything that you do not understand.
  • Make sure that your lawyer knows what outcome you want him or her to try to achieve in this case, as well as your “fallback” position.
  • Never sign any papers related to your case without consulting your lawyer first.

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Copyright © 2011 Legal Services of New Jersey

This information last reviewed 10/28/11


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