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To Comply or Not to Comply—How to Handle a DYFS Investigation

Matthew B. Lun is a New Jersey attorney practicing in the areas of family law, criminal defense, expungements, and gun permits.

The New Jersey DCPP conducts investigations that can be confusing at times.

The New Jersey DCPP conducts investigations that can be confusing at times.

What to Expect from a DYFS or DCPP Visit

Anyone who has ever had to deal with DYFS or DCPP will tell you what a nightmare it can be. Typically it starts with a knock on the door and a seemingly innocent round of questions. Investigators can come across as very friendly and will generally try to make you feel like everything is okay and there is no problem or risk. But before long, New Jersey DYFS investigators or caseworkers will be demanding random checks or private interviews with children. Depending on the allegations DYFS may demand you complete other services as well. These services may include the following:

  • Urine screens
  • Substance abuse evaluations
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Parenting classes
  • Domestic violence counseling
  • Visits to your child's school,
  • Speaking with ex-spouses,
  • Speaking with doctors, and
  • Attempting to get you to sign releases for information.

As a New Jersey DYFS DCPP defense attorney, the inquiries I receive most often include the following:

  • Do I have to comply with DYFS demands?
  • How do I keep a DYFS investigation out of court?

Do I have to comply with DYFS demands?

I wish this question had a simple answer, but unfortunately, it does not. On the one hand, when dealing with a DYFS investigation there is typically no court order requiring a parent to do anything for DYFS. On the other hand, if the parent doesn't comply with the investigation, the Division always has the power to go to court, or worse yet, remove the child or children from the home.

The goal with any out-of-court DYFS investigation is two-fold:

  • First, to keep the case out of court.
  • Second, to get DYFS to go away. Once a case goes to court it becomes much more complicated and, in turn, much more expensive.

How do I Keep a DYFS Investigation Out of Court?

Keeping an investigation out of court requires knowledge of the New Jersey law that applies to DYFS. There are statutes that require DYFS to take certain steps when an allegation of abuse or neglect is received. If an individual does not allow DYFS to complete their investigation, DYFS will likely go to court seeking what is known as an Order to Investigate. This can be avoided if you know a few key things.

The key to keeping a DYFS investigation out of court is to know what DYFS is required to do and what they aren't required to do in order to complete their investigation. I am surprised at how many people, including DYFS workers and lawyers, have no idea what these requirements are. For example, DYFS is required to interview the person alleged to have committed the act. If the person cannot be interviewed, DYFS will likely seek an order to investigate. On the other hand, DYFS is not required to obtain a drug test from the person accused of abuse or neglect. What this means is that if a person refuses a drug test, depending on the circumstances of their individual case, DYFS may not immediately rush into court.

If there is little to no evidence to suggest that the allegations are true, allowing DYFS to complete its investigation may result in a prompt resolution of the matter. If, on the other hand, there is significant evidence to suggest an allegation of abuse or neglect may be true, there may be nothing that can be done to prevent the case from going to court. In those instances, it may be better not to cooperate so as to prevent DYFS from obtaining incriminating evidence against you. In yet another scenario DYFS may have strong suspicions of abuse or neglect but little evidence. In these cases, they may push very hard for interviews, evaluations, and collateral information to build a case against you.

An additional thing to keep in mind is that it is possible to comply with DYFS without subjecting yourself to their services. For instance, DYFS may demand that someone complete a substance abuse evaluation. It is quite natural to have doubts about the accuracy and objectivity of an evaluation done by practitioners who receive funding from DYFS. A good attorney can negotiate the acceptance of a neutral third-party evaluation.

Closing Thoughts

Dealing with DYFS is difficult and tricky. I sometimes refer to DYFS investigations as a game of chicken, with clients trying to avoid the Division just enough to avoid having a complaint filed in court. Most caseworkers make the threat of litigation very prominent in their investigations. When an individual has never had to deal with such a threat before, the threat can have the coercive effect of making an individual submit to any number of services, some of which may be completely unrelated to the allegation that led to the investigation in the first place.

That stated, there is no easy answer to make DYFS go away and there is no simple answer to the question of whether or not an individual has to comply with their demands. Each and every case is unique. The best thing is to seek legal representation as soon as possible. A qualified DYFS attorney can give you advice on the best way to proceed based on the details of your situation.
It is crucial to keep in mind that every situation is unique.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2013 Matthew B. Lun, Esq.


Gigigirl777 on March 28, 2020:

Where can I call if a custodial parent is using government services only to benefit their need and agenda to get ahead. The child has the ability and wants to live with the other parent who can provide all the needs on their own. They have been peaceably co-parenting for a few years. No court involved. The custodial parents pride doesn't want the other parent knowing too much or having even access to the child. To the extent they keep the child in an environment that they can't care for the child fully. (Emotionally and physically) They are also absent 85 percent of the time due to pursuing academic career and working part time so the child doesn't see the custodial parent often. They have now gotten the non custodial parent to pay support instead of sharing the responsibility legally. The non custodial parent has the time attention and ability to care for the child being married and financially more stable.

Kelsey on January 10, 2020:

I have a question do i have to ket my investigator count my medicine. They were called on a false allegation i gave them my clean drug screen i been clean for 4 years. In currently on suboxone and some antidepressants. What are my rights.

GSKY on March 08, 2019:

This is important about your child and DCPP '/ dyfus.... They told me 6 to 9 month process. 1 year later they lie about 95% of the timeee. Stories change, no professional customer service, horibble work office and drug section testing poor at best. and more to be "evaluated" in the pocket free of charge riggged pychologistis, it all feels more like a businesss, No transportation giving to me requested, i would have liked to in a lifetime live in a world where People from this NJ DCCP office dont exsist by forcing me to payy them for things they spring on you at random timess without telling you court dates.

Tina on December 13, 2018:

This is a response to the women named Maggie. I dont know what dcpp org youve delt with but these people are out blood. They dont care if your inoccent and if you.have a clean record they will find a way to dirty your reputation and its all about the money they make by taking your child or children by making you do services tbat you dont or never have needed. These people are mentally ill ive met quit a few of them and their behavoir needs to be evaluated immediatly becaise they are destroying and ripping apart alot of good familys and breaking innocent children that only need protection from people employed by dcpp of nj. One phone call with a false allegation and they are up your ass like hemmroids. They make a mockery out of the court and lie so badly with absolutley no documentation to back any of the allegations from the phone call right down to their lies. How is this in best interest of the child ? When ovbiously removing a child from a safe and loving home is harmful to the child. Our politicians need to step up and fix the horrible instatution the call dyfus you and all these people are making money off of childrens backs. Do you people know what this is ??? Its called human trafficking right here in America. We as Americans have civil rights and freedom of speech and a right to raise our children our way as long as their not being injuryed or harmed. Open your eyes people this is political bs and is strictly about money with these kinds of cases brought to court everyone all around is making tons of it and its on you and your family

TR Morales on July 22, 2018:

and when your child is a teenager and uses the system against you?

Ann Hathaway the hated stepmom on July 09, 2018:

It has been two years since I was investigated by DCPP and I'm finally calm enough to give back to the chatty community that supported me at that terrible time. I was a step parent who had been accused of verbal abuse by an angry teenager who didn't want to clean their room. I didn't have money to hire an attorney. I did gather from various posts that I should take the 60-day investigation period to my advantage. First, postpone and reschedule their visit per numerous circumstances outside of your control. When they do come in your home - record them/you. your iPad or Mac Air has an application that will take in the entire room. Set it up and click play when the doorbell rings. This gave me some sense of control and a heightened awareness. It will also serve as a record of recourse if they take you to court and lie about their "findings" (they do lie). More importantly, it will give you confidence that you said the right thing and some grounds to stand on for.... phase II.

Phase II is typically a drug/alcohol assessment/ evaluation. Delay this scheduling until the very last couple days of your 60-day. They will try to make it appear that you didn't respond to their letter of which they randomly schedule you. Send a certified letter with signature making yourself only available at the 59th day of the investigation. It will be tempting to run in and plan to pass their exam with flying colors but don't. Nobody really passes - at best, you can avoid failing. And you do not want to give them time to request a second (likely psychological) evaluation. So they will try to lump some of those tricky questions into the drug/alcohol evaluation. Be careful that they will try to set you off and make you express anger or frustration. Have no emotion.

The administrator will ask you for your income and highest level of education (Catholic Charities really needs to know this?). Stretch it upward and make sure they believe you. It was my experience that Mrs. Walker (so she says) wasn't so well educated herself. I gave her short answers and intimidated her with my education, said income and complex description of my job (which I described as the consultant who was hired to fire people). I also referenced a plausible solution by "my attorney" of which her agency should provide some complimentary counseling services to help me establish a respectable role in my household and better the relationship with the angry child who slandered me. And yes, I recorded it ALL on my iPhone. She violated hippa several times by offering "pocket change" advise and asking non-substance abuse questions. My only regret is that I didn't ask her if her career was worth doing this to establish a false case against me.

My investigation was closed unsubstantiated. They won't admit that you were the victim of an angry child or that they were wrong to investigate you. But they will avoid bringing a bunch of child's talk before a judge that doesn't have any evidence.

Good luck and stay tough!

Edith Ann on June 23, 2018:

It is truly a shame what so many DCP&P Caseworkers, Prosecutors, and Family Court Judges (who seemingly exist to support DCP&P in allegations and Recommendations) get away with. They function in unison to damage childrens' lives and destroy family units in their virtually free reign allegations, via "preponderance of the evidence (meaning a mere 51% "likelihood") that any purposeful, intentional, willful negligece/abuse was perpetrated upon a child, by a parent/parents. What they do is indeed, criminal.

A Mob agency, licensed to destroy families via any means they choose and they stoop very low to do it. Lying, falsifying records...

Spouses get angry and lie. Children don't get what they want and become angry and lie. Disgruntled neighbors lie. Co-wporkers lie. In the end, someone suffers very badly. The innocent, in particular.

This agency sorely needs reform. State Legislators give them carte blanch, because of the boon this agency brings to State economies, within all the States in the USA! The often unnecessary evaluations they coerce parents into agreeing to, including drug evals, consequent drug counseling, even with clean drug tests and no history of abuse whatsoever. A parent is honest and tells them that he/she used some marijuana as a teen. BAM, you're automatically an admitted drug ABUSER, although you haven't touched mj in over 20 years! You cannot win! Excuse me, but didn't we have several US Presidents who also admitted to using mj in their youth? Did DCP&P swoop in and try to unravel their families, careers, and lives? Did an impeachment process ensue? Hardly!

This touted "best interest of the child" business has gotten totally out of hand. And it'll remain out of hand, because It's all GREEN and all GOOD, all the time, while countless families continue to suffer at the hands of DCP&P. It's sad that such an agency exists in the 21st Century, with so much power, which so tramples an individual's rights.

Enter the attorneys. They're often not much help, although they tout that they are GREAT in Family Court and in battling DCP&P. They all certainly spend a great deal of energy online, advertising and promoting their "outstanding" talents and knowledge, yet fail to achieve anything good, after charging huge sums to even answer a phone call from you, their client! Look, attorneys get paid, win, lose or draw, so in essence, they cannot POSSIBLY lose. Again, it's all green, and all good, all the time. EXCEPT FOR THE PARENTS AND THE CHILDREN, that is.

There should be recourse. Parents should not lose their children on trumped up charges of abuse and neglect that are horrendously embellished and outright lies. Even more money is made when someone's children are adopted through DCP&P. It's no secret. And the Federal Government gives them huge bonuses, in addition to subsidizing almost everything the "mob" does. Then most States turn around and allow Social Services to charge parents (via "Foster child support" orders) whose kids are in Foster Care, even though the State/Federal is already paying for that Foster Care! Is that not "double-dipping?) Fact of the matter is that this mob will destroy your family, cause you to lose your job, due to so many hearings and drug testing, drug counseling, meetings and other "services" they coerce you into. Then they'll garnish your unemployment compensation for FOSTER child support, while THEY HAVE CARE AND CUSTODY OF YOUR PRECIOUS CHILDREN!!! They're licensed to destroy any and every aspect of your life and put you into an emotional pain that you will CERTAINLY need counseling to recover from for years to come, with zero oversight and no accountability. GESTAPO tactics run amok. No recourse and good families are left to try to pick up the pieces. That's when the manipulated "services" they coerced you into, to try to prove their allegations, all cease and desist.

While some kids have benefited and needed rescuing from their dangerous and negligent/abusive environments, far more kids and parents are damaged from the run amok "Mob" that is NJ's DCP&P, including Family Court Judges, which all serve primarily to support any and all actions of the DCP&P, since that's where the "big money" is.

For everyone who has been hurt and irreparably damaged by the mob, I extend my sincere sympathies. Hope is sometimes all one has, but it's also true that hope can be a futile thing. The more you try to comply with the many improper services they push on you, and the more cooperative you try to be, the deeper they dig the hole in which they'll bury you. Not unlike an animal on the attack for food and survival, they will keep coming, until they find your jugular and they will rip it out and smile as you breathe your last breath in the fight for your children whom you adore. Many will never again have the peace of just being a family, until their child is grown and emancipated. The lost time with your child is gone forever.

DCP&P will likely remain in your lives, with unsettling demands and visits, until you are exhausted trying to adjust to your life no longer being your own and your children no longer being yours to raise, love, enjoy and appreciate, as a normal family.

They will only close a case if they feel like it. The money train ends when they do close a case. And there's no peace in that kind of intrusion into what was once the autonomy of being a family and enjoying your lives as such.

Nothing rivals being accused of abuse and neglect of your child(dren). But just getting your kids back, if you've lost them, is not the end all-be all. The harassment (supervision) can go on for many years beyond just getting your kids back. The chronic stress has to be almost unbearable.

I know 2 good families who have gone through the nightmare that is DCP&P and it was brutal for them all, especially, the children.

Families SHOULD be protected from these kinds of profit driven tactics and the public should be informed about how DCP&P actually functions, as opposed to what they SAY they know how they do it and the ugly facts that their lies and misrepresentations rule the day in Family Court.

Fathers are often discriminated against, based strictly on their gender, while nothing changes in the laws/statutes to address that very REAL problem. The entire system needs tearing down, from top to bottom, and restructured into something that actually serves the best interest of children and families. The poorer families suffer indignities beyond what more well off families suffer. They cannot afford to hire attorney's, they cannot often afford health insurance for their families, perhaps not even working, and are unable to support their families in the manner they'd prefer.

Poor or not, a family unit is a precious thing. Children are precious. Important relationships are precious. DCP&P cares not, and is anathema to the values which good families hold most dear. And there is little to no way to fight them and win. Paying a lawyer to show up and quote a statute or 2 is hardly worth the expense, when you're already financially challenged. It's not about "truth" with DCP&P. It's about whatever they can make work, that adds up to what the law states as a "preponderance of the evidence". That 51% deal. That's all they need to do. And they do it in horrible fashion but the very nature of the issue, dictates that no atty can change any of it. Most don't even bother trying. The Rule Of Law is what it is. Lawyers have no magic. There is, most often, zero which helps at all. A previous criminal record is prettypoison. Great character statements mean nothing though. Who you are and how much you care about your kids has nothing to do with it. If someone is angry at you and lies that you abused your child, you're in for a lot of pain...emotional, physical as your health suffers, financial ruin, and the ever persistent feeling that you're being raped of who you are, while attorneys and judges nod and just look the other way.

As someone else here said, DCPP needs to be stopped. How is the billion $ question!


Anthony on June 14, 2018:

I believe every parent goes through rough times in your life I don't believe DYFS is has the right to continuously bring the bad up no matter how long ago which they tend to do

SR on May 08, 2018:

DCPP destroy children's lives they are incompetent and hide their mistakes. Get a lawyer ASAP do not them alone with your children. Do not let them into your home

Maggie on May 05, 2018:

DCPP DOES NOT WANT TO TAKE YOUR CHILDREN UNLESS THERE IS ABUSE OR NEGLECT. If DCPP knocks at your door it isn't because they want your children it is because someone has called in an allegation against you regarding the care of your children. Allow them into your home to advise you of the allegations and let them do their job and comply with what they request of you. You have every right to ask questions and disagree with the situation and workers. DCPP does not want to target you personally it is ALWAYS about the safety and well being of your child(ren). The quicker you allow DCPP to do their investigation and comply with their requests, the sooner DCPP will be out of your life. This is all depending upon nothing being true in the allegations, your compliance and negative results regarding drug tests. DCPP will work with you and help you with services.

Sara on April 04, 2018:

Hire an attorney. Do not let them into your home or answer any questions, without an attorney. Even if you believe you have done nothing wrong, hire an attorney.

Michael on March 27, 2018:

Please stop not only spread poor misleading information, but also profiting from it. Folks, DCPP Policy and Procedures Manual is available online for all to see. It's not "Us against Them." Yes you have rights. Read the policy, and do NOT hire a lawyer. The folks at DCPP don't want your children but rather good outcomes for your family. He just wants your money.

sue blue on March 16, 2018:

Dyfs destroys families instead of helping them I found out first hand I believe they are a group that takes children away from their happy home and puts them where they really arent wanted the foster parent only wants the money they get for having the child I seen more abuse on a foster child then the parent with the drug or alcohol problem I believe dyfs is part of the deep dark web

Lynn on February 10, 2018:

I don't know if this is true or not. I was told that DYFS funding is based on the number of children they place in foster care. So basically they must make a quota......if that is true then some children are traumatized by this broken system! DYFS should be required to clearly state why they have come to your home and should provide printed material that informs parents of what is happening and what their rights are!

mara demion on January 20, 2018:

middlesex county dcp&p and new brunswick family court are corrupt as well they lie they make more and more false allegations and phone calls on you when they cant prove you have done anything wrong they also tamper with urine specimens and paperwork. Elna Montgomery a case worker and michael thomas lawyer for the division all lie in court under oath and these family court judges sit there and let them lie about parents and all events that take place in their cases. someone needs to put these people under tight investigation. They also obtain information by abusing their titles. they call doctors and schools without permission to gain your personal info to twist things and build a case to further their careers and to make more money the best interest of the child is not what they care about. so who is going to standup to these people ? when are they going to be punished for these illegal and corrupt acts of misconduct ? who is going to help the parents who dont have the financial means to bring these criminals in suits to justice and stop them from hurting these innocent families???? the state of nj needs to get with the program and start protecting citizens like myself. these people are destroying families and hurting these innocent children for profit. they scar these kids for life . im tired of no one caring about the corruption and abuse of power by the division.they have even went as far as forgery and when i called my local police they would not investigate. they have the schools and police in their pockets. they need to be sued , investigated, charged and put in jail where they belong. someone needs to make an example out of all these people and send a message that what they are doing and how they are hurting people is not ok. and that anyone who commits these crimes will face severe consequences. if anyone is willing to help or has any ideas about this please email lets do something about this. our children and families are suffering!!!!!!!

Luisa on December 10, 2017:

Hi I’m in need of a DFCS Defense attorney to get my 4 children home to me, they are claiming neglect because I waited 3 hours before I called the pediatrician for asking questions about my sons health. (Took him to Urgent care an hour later and he was released healthy, then 5 hours later we took him to ER for ticks movements which were apparently seizures) I’m in Alpharetta GA

Kathryn Kalb on December 09, 2017:

My son is having problems with DCF in Kansas! His two boys 5 and 6 shouldn't have been taken in the first place! DCF worker told my son we have a bunch of evidence on you! DCF said for abuse, and verbal abuse! They lied to get the kids removed! The case was closed with unsubstantiated findings! Before it was closed my son got a DUI, and the kids were with there grandpa which he had a no contact with the grand kids! All of it was a pack of lies on DCF part! They closed the case and took him to court on a Permanency Hearing, CINC! DCF subcontracted to St Francis said the Foster care walked in on the two boys kissing? The kids were taking on adult like behavior because they were asking when court would be, and when could they see there dad! Then they claimed the oldest wanted to commit suicide, then they said it was the youngest that said it! All lies! They stopped visit with dad! We went to court, and the judge said this was no Permanency hearing and wanted to hear from the old case workers. The lawyer told the judge they stopped visit, and the judge told my son you will see your kids today! The next week we went to court, and the judge said he didn't have any more information than before so he gave the kids back to dad! My son, and ex-husband was cleared on the prior charge but still had the no contact order on my ex-husband! I feel this whole mess is going to continue, and it scares me to death!

Fastereich meizen on June 08, 2017:

Ocean county dyfs and familly courts are corrupt my ex not even my sons mother called dyfs on me saying I drink and do drug's after numerous passed drug tests two psychological tests and a dyfs investigation which said zero grounds of abuse or neglect they still wont let me see my son. I had joint custody shared parenting time since his mother and I split ways and never missed a child support payment. Joanna curgliano and bianca bembridge are two cold horrible people my mother goes to visit my son at his mother's house and he begs to see his daddy where my daddy have you seen my daddy. When we went in front of judge russo he said he was obligated to do what dyfs says no matter what its the law. When I asked my case worker the bitch bianca about the paper sent in the mail to me saying zero grounds of abuse or neglect she said they send the same letter to everyone even if they do find grounds. How nice and not believable. Stay out of nj this whole state is completely corrupt they are horrible cold corrupt people absolutely shit. Joanna and bianca and nj dyfs are all going to hell there ruining people's lives for profit.

Shameful on May 23, 2017:

DYFS does nothing to help a child but abuse their power and control either the parent(s) or removal of the child. The Ocean County DYFS is so flawed and faulty I cannot understand how this is allowed. They have nothing but harassed an entire family and no matter how much anyone does comply the horror story just never ends! Ocean County DYFS also believes in false allegations accuses the parent is not at fault! WShat the real almost unbelievable horro is to give custody to a father who is a drug dealer who has been \evading the system any way he could and is gaining custody! Is DYFS blind or do they have a problem looking the truth in its eye? It is not a surprise how many children have been seriously hurt or even killed because DYFS is not doing their job! Shame on a system that is so flawed and faulty and should not be funded or receive a dime for hurting innocent children. Really??? Giving custody to a drug dealing father??? When the mother is clean and complies with everything? What is wrong here???

Maria on August 08, 2016:

In February my ex called dyfs on me making allegations that I was doing drugs. In March 2016 I've done my drug test and as well psychological evaluation. Everything was good but suggest I seek therapy and join an ADV meeting. In April 2016 my case was closed but still open due to my ex and Dyfs coming to my home once a month. In June my ex was still making allegations but due to my case was closed she suggested I do a hair test but I refused and they let me be. Again in August she suggested I do a urine sample because it's unfair that my ex is still being drug tested. Speaking to my therapist she suggest I get a lawyer for that isn't a reason to be test for and that she does her monthly visits and sees there is nothing wrong or going on in my home. Apparently I can refuse this drug test again. I feel like been harassed and picked on. What should I do??? Pleas help

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