Roth-Gutman Law

Strategizing with you to help a child
Strategizing with you to help a child

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Abuse & Neglect Hearings

judge signing on the papers

What happens at a fact-finding hearing?

Think of a fact-finding hearing in a child welfare case as a trial. Majority of the time a fact-finding hearing is more like a mini-trial, lasting only an hour. Although, in highly contested cases a trial or hearing can last longer than a week. The purpose is for a Judge to decide whether a child was harmed or placed at risk for abuse or neglect. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.44. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly known as DYFS) must prove to the judge whether this occurred. DCPP is New Jersey’s child protection agency and is represented by the Office of the Attorney General. The Deputy Attorney General assigned to the case will rely on evidence and proofs leading up to why litigation was filed against the child’s caregivers, typically the parent(s). The Law Guardian and defense will be able to use evidence as well to either support the claim or oppose DCPP. Evidence may include:

  • Medical records
  • EMT records
  • Drug screens
  • Police reports; Police testimony
  • Expert reports and evaluations; Expert testimony
  • DCPP investigation reports
  • Photos (often times used in physical abuse cases)
  • Caseworker testimony
  • School records, including attendance records (often used in educational neglect cases)
  • Others may also be subpoenaed to testify, including parents, children, neighbors, and other family members

Will the case be dismissed before a fact-finding hearing?

Majority of the time cases are not dismissed prior to a fact-finding hearing. Though this does differ by county and by judge. It is rare for a case to be dismissed prior to a fact- finding hearing. However, there are times this could occur such as when a child is already reunified and the parents or caregivers from whom the child was removed have already remedied the situation for why DCPP and the Court became involved. Typically, the caregivers are also not being asked to complete any services such as substance abuse treatment or parenting classes.

Published by Jill Roth-Gutman

Jill Roth-Gutman is a Child Welfare Law Specialist, certified by the National Association of Counsel for Children, a credentialing organization approved by the American Bar Association. She provides New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly, DYFS) consultations to resource parents, family members and potential foster and foster-to-adopt parents as well as completes DCPP Adoption. She also specializes in Adult Child Guardianships, writing Power of Attorney and Living Wills. Ms. Roth-Gutman is available as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in contested child custody cases and as a Court Appointment Attorney for Alleged Incapacitated Persons in Guardianships. Ms. Roth-Gutman is a proud member of the Burlington County Bar Association, Camp to Belong River Valley Recruitment Committee, and sits on the Camden County Workforce Development Board's Youth Investment Council Committee.