Howes & Howes, Attorneys at Law

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“I’ll Just Appeal”

Litigants frustrated with Children in Court litigation often want to appeal an adverse ruling of a trial court.  An appeal is not a magic cure.  It is always an uphill battle.  A review of the most recent statistics on appeals demonstrates just what the likelihood of success on appeal for the average litigant.  The statistics also tell a story about your likelihood of success where your adversary is the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

The New Jersey Appellate Division processes thousands of cases each year.  Each one of the cases that the Appellate Division processes is important to the litigants, important enough that the trial court made a ruling on a contested case, and important enough that one of those litigants has taken the trouble and has expended the resources to fight the case on past the trial court.

Appeals are always an uphill battle.  The standards for appellate review place the burden on the Appellant to show that the trial court was wrong.  The burden is a heavy one, and as a result, the statistics show that the Appellate Division upholds the trial courts in a substantial majority of the cases that result in an appeal.

The most recent statistics available from the New Jersey Judiciary are from the 2011-2012 court year.  During the 2011-12 court year, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in civil cases in sixty-eight percent of cases handled by three judge panels.  During that same court year, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in civil cases in seventy-two percent of cases handled by two judge panels.  In other words, in seven out of ten civil cases heard by the Appellate Division, the appellant loses.

The odds are even worse for appellants in cases involving the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP).  Howes & Howes performed an informal study of unpublished Appellate Division cases involving DCPP.  During the period from July 2013 through July 2014, there were sixty-one (61) appeals involving DCPP cases.  The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in fifty-six (56) of those cases.  That represents an eight percent success rate.

Before appealing an adverse decision of a trial court in a DCPP case, a litigant be realistic about the likelihood of success lies.  The likelihood of success on appeal in most cases is low.  Success is not impossible, but with a good brief and a strong argument, you can beat the odds and win in the Appellate Division.

Fixing the Central Registry (Part Two):  The legally permitted uses of the Central Registry

In this second part of our series on the DCPP Central Registry, we examine the permitted uses of the Registry.  Under New Jersey law, DCPP must guard all information about abuse or neglect with their livelihoods.  The law protects the confidentiality of DCPP-related information.  DCPP may only release this privileged information in response to a formal request and only in response to very specific types of requests.

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Fixing the Central Registry (Part One):  “Substantiated” versus “established”

On April 1, 2013, new rules governing DCPP investigation findings became effective.  In an effort to cure what ailed the Central Registry, DCPP created a new four-tiered menu of possible findings. The new findings apply to allegations of neglect or abuse that occur after April 1, 2013.  They replace the old three-tiered system.  This comment is the first of a series from Howes & Howes explaining the new rules.

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Escape from the DYFS Central Registry:  How to remove your DYFS substantiation

As a parent, one of the most shocking letters you can receive is a letter from DYFS advising you that DYFS has investigated you and found that you have committed child abuse or child neglect.  A finding of abuse or neglect lands a parent in the DYFS Central Registry, a stigma you dont need.  If you receive a substantiation letter, there is a meaningful legal process to protect you.  And when you need counsel in the process, Howes & Howes is prepared to represent you.

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The Role of the Fact-Finding Hearing in DYFS Litigation

Child protective litigation involving D.Y.F.S. both confuses and frustrates parents caught in D.Y.F.S.’s dragnet.  The early part of the process seems hurried and incomplete.  Early hearings are ususally performed in a summary manner, that leaves out details that the parent believes are important.  Parents are entitled to a more in-depth hearing called a Fact-Finding Hearing.  This article provides a primer on the basics of the Fact-Finding Hearing.

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Yes, the Bill of Rights DOES apply to DYFS

One forgotten concept in DYFS work is that DYFS workers represent a government of limited powers.  DYFS workers are not taught that the constitution applies to them, but it does indeed apply to them.  If a DYFS worker comes into your home and tells you to jump, you do not need to ask “how high”.  Your best course of action is usually to consult an experienced attorney for advice on how to protect your family’s privacy.

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New Jersey D.Y.F.S. Cases:  Success Stories

Howes & Howes accepts referrals in all 21 New Jersey counties to represent parents who have been sued by D.Y.F.S..  Ultimately the success of your case will depend on the unique facts of your case, and success in your case can not be judged from past results.  However, it does pay to have an attorney experienced in D.Y.F.S. cases.  Over the past ten years, we have enjoyed success representing parents.  Some of our success stories are digested in this article.  (References that might identify the client have been removed.)

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