Although we are a leader in family law and have focused our practice as such, Adinolfi & Packman, P.A. also provides comprehensive legal services for our clients throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania/ Philadelphia, including DYFS (Division of Youth & Family Services) matters and adoption either in conjunction with a family law case or separately.
DYFS (Division of Youth & Family Services)
The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) is New Jersey’s child protection and child welfare agency within the Department of Children and Families. Its mission is to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children and to support families. Parents have a fundamental, constitutionally protected interest in their children. The State of NJ does have the power, however, to protect children if their mental or physical well-being is being harmed. This gives New Jersey’s DYFS agency the power to remove children from the home if they deem necessary. DYFS brings two types of legal actions against parents. These are child abuse/neglect-protective services and guardianship/termination of parental rights actions. The goal of parental defense attorneys representing parents is to help them to maintain or regain custody of their child/ren, or if that is not possible, to achieve a resolution of the case that will allow them to have a continued relationship with their child/ren. Legal representation is important at every stage of the legal proceedings in these types of cases.
Generally, there are three types of proceedings that the Division of Youth and Family Services intiaties:
- Abuse/Neglect Proceedings
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Guardianship Proceedings and/or Adoption
- Complaint and Order to Show Cause after a removal of a child ( otherwise known as a DODD Hearing after the Senator)
- Preliminary Hearing- Judge will decide whether the DCP&P has shown good reason to continue the case and whether or not the child should continue in placement
- Fact-Finding Hearing- At this hearing the DCP&P will try to prove their burden that the parent did in fact abuse or neglect their child(ren)
- Dispositional Hearing- If the Judge determines abuse and/or neglect occurred, the Judge must decide what happens next. The Judge can decide that even if there was abuse and/or neglect, circumstances have changed and the child can be returned, or the Judge can continue placement and services. Even if the Judge determines there was no abuse and/or neglect, the Court can continue jurisdiction if there is a finding that there is still a need for services.
- Permanency Hearings- Within twelve (12) months of a child entering into foster care the DCP&P must have a permanency plan whether it is reunification with the parents or termination of parental rights. At this hearing the DCP&P presents their plan and the Judge accepts or rejects it. If the permanency plan is termination of parental rights and this is accepted by the Judge, the next proceeding is initiated and is entitled Guardianship proceedings
Termination of Parental Rights – Guardianship/Adoption Proceedings
Termination of Parental Rights and Guardianship/Adoption proceedings often go hand in hand. The firm has represented clients on both sides of this issue – a parent trying to retain their rights or a foster family or extended family member trying to be named the Guardian or Adoptive Parent. These proceedings can be complicated and have far-reaching consequences. Adinolfi & Packman South Jersey family lawyer, Kimberly Packman, understands the rules and laws that govern DYFS proceedings. Attorney Packman has worked successfully to help our clients navigate the DYFS process in both founded and unfounded DYFS charges.