Frequently, parents that are going through a divorce develop legitimate concerns about the care of their child in the custody of the other parent. These legitimate concerns may involve substance abuse, mental health concerns, or general neglect – that the other parent was not necessarily someone that was in a care-giving role as much as you may have been.
When those concerns are developed and the agency is called, the agency has a duty to investigate. That’s not altered by the status of the marriage, so they don’t have any lesser duty to investigate simply because the parents are going through a divorce. That said, parties sometimes try to use the agency to concoct false claims against their spouse, to get a leg up in the custody and parenting time dispute. The agency now has a four-tiered administrative finding system where the outcome can often result in something written that can be used in the course of the custody case.
While there is inherently distrust that comes with the parties going through a divorce, the elevation of normal concerns to the degree of child abuse and neglect in the course of a divorce is something that judges often disfavor and, of course, the agency is concerned about as well.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com