When children are involved with DCPP (the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly DYFS) and are removed from their homes because their parents are not able to care for them at this time, they and the members of their family will go to court to talk with the judge.
If this happens to you and your family, one important right you have in New Jersey is the right to your own lawyer (separate from the attorneys for your parents) who will stand up just for you in the court case. This lawyer has a special name and is called a "Law Guardian."
Here are some basic questions you may have about your Law Guardian:
A Law Guardian is a specially trained lawyer chosen by the judge to stick up for you in court. Your Law Guardian speaks to the judge for you and tells the judge what you want and what you need. Your Law Guardian works only for you and not for DCPP or for your parents.
Your Law Guardian will help you to understand the court proceeding and explain the choices you may have.
Yes. Usually, the same law guardian represents all the children in one family who are involved in the court case. However, if your wishes or interests are different from those of your brothers or sisters, then another Law Guardian may be asked to represent your siblings.
Your Law Guardian will come to visit you in your home or at your school at different times throughout your case. Your Law Guardian works together with a partner called an "investigator" who will also visit you. Your Law Guardian and investigator work together to help you and to speak for you during the court case. Your conversations with your Law Guardian and investigator are private and cannot be shared with others without your permission.
Your Law Guardian and investigator may speak to other people in your life such as your resource family, your counselor or your teacher so that your Law Guardian can better serve you.
Each Law Guardian works in an office in the area where your court case is happening. Your Law Guardian will provide you with the office phone number to call if you need to reach your Law Guardian. If you do not have this number, you can call our main office and ask for help in reaching your Law Guardian. That number is: 609-530-3623.